As the summer season approaches, Ella Mai’s beloved single “Boo’d Up” continues to grow in popularity, ushering in the idea that “real R&B” may be back — in a big way. The year-old song suddenly popped early this spring and it may just be a testament to the way that good music will always, eventually, find its way to the ears of many.
The bubbling R&B singer was discovered by DJ Mustard in 2016 after he heard her rendition of Tupac’s “Keep Ya Head Up” on Instagram. Sensing something special, Mustard quickly signed her to his 10 Summers label. Mai then released a trilogy of EPs through Mustard’s label titled Time, Change and lastly, 2017’s Ready, which features Ella’s lovable track “Boo’d Up.” It’s a sweet song about becoming so enthralled in someone that you carelessly let love flow to wherever it may lead.
More than a year after “Boo’d Up” was released on Ready, and featured on Spotify and Apple Music playlists, the track evolved into the London-born singer’s first Billboard Hot 100 top 10 hit. It’s been holding down the No. 1 spot on the Hot R&B Songs chart for two straight weeks and is also No. 1 on the R&B Streaming Songs charts. But how’d that happen?
Well, getting to this point was a slow grind. Aside from opening up for Kehlani’s 2017 SweetSexySavage World Tour, Ella frequently encouraged her fans to request “Boo’d Up” on the radio and in January 2018, she observed an uptick in Texan fans hearing her song on the radio.
In February, Shazam saw a spike in people interested in the song by nearly 48% according to HITS Daily Double, while on Youtube, something similar was happening. Views for “Boo’d Up” stayed near 100,000 plays per day until suddenly, on March 9, the song hit over 300,000 plays. April 24 was the first time “Boo’d Up” hit a million plays in a day and now it averages about 3 million per day. The official music video for “Boo’d Up” wasn’t released until April 26 but currently, it boasts over 66 million views.
In the viral age, we’re so used to hearing stories about some lesser-known artist dropping a song, not knowing where it could lead, and in just a few days’ time hitting millions of streams, with record deal offers from all of the major labels coming in on an artist’s first try. Such was the case for Interscope signee Juice WRLD, who, in the blink of an eye, signed a $3 million dollar deal this year after the viral success of his “All Girls Are The Same” video directed by Cole Bennett. Really, that kind of success is more of an anomaly. So when a song like “Boo’d Up,” great though it may be, comes out and doesn’t pop fast, it’s assumed the song’s potential is lost forever.
Needless to say, Ella Mai stayed “ten-toes down” with DJ Mustard and kept pushing for her music to be heard and it paid off. At this point, it is up to Ella to maintain her momentum. It’s a crucial moment for those who want to see the rebirth of R&B and more talented female singers rise to the top. Jhene Aiko, H.E.R., Jorja Smith and Ravyn Lenae are just a few of the ladies who are pushing for the climate to become more welcoming for female R&B artists, affording them the same success of their male counterparts.
This summer, as I relish how darling “Boo’d Up” is while drinking mimosas at brunch, I’ll also expect more Ella Mai greatness. If listening to her trilogy of EPs is any indication of what new fans can expect from the buzzing singer, there are plenty of songs that will resonate just as much as the intoxicating “Boo’d Up,” even if none of them are quite as ’90s-R&B-sounding. Still, the songs on Time, Change and Ready provide a truly updated R&B sound which is complemented by Ella’s tenacious voice. She stands out in comparison to her R&B contemporaries, who stylistically trend toward nasally and airy vocals.
The rise of Ella Mae’s “Boo’d Up” exemplifies how talent and consistency will always triumph over random, quick Hot 100 hits, and Mai has a growing body of work to prove that she has the potential for longevity, too. If she continues to push toward music that touches the people just as much as “Boo’d Up” has, her career will last a long time.