New Musical Express (NME) - 80 Based on rating 4/5
The DJ Mustard protégé proves she's more than worth the hype on an impossibly confident R&B debut Three years ago, a DM changed Ella Mai's life. While the now 23-year-old was studying Music at university and working in retail, she was also posting fifteen 15-second covers on Instagram. She never thought that these clips could be her big break. Yet one of these videos caught the attention of DJ Mustard (the Californian production mastermind behind hits for Ty Dolla Sign, T.I.
It's always tricky when an emerging artist drops a full-length album after a big hit single. After the platinum-selling success of "Boo'd Up," expectations are sky-high and the pressure is on to populate the project with various iterations of the crowd-pleasing track. After a slew of EPs and singles, UK-born singer and songwriter Ella Mai knows her musical mode — a mashup of R&B sounds from over the decades, with a modern mindset.
Her self-titled debut delivers vibes along the lines of "Boo'd Up," which is all folks are really looking ….
No one could have sung "Ooooh/Now I'll never get over you" with quite the same starry-eyed naiveté that Ella Mai does on her unapologetically sprung summer smash "Boo'd Up. " It was a song that both Stevie Wonder and toddlers found easy to love, a four-minute reverie during which everything slips out of focus apart from you and your boo. Mai has been signed to hip-pop hypeman DJ Mustard's 10 Summers imprint since 2016, putting a decisive point of view on likeable, if not particularly individual, trap-leaning pop beats, with songs centering on agency, desire, and her early-morning appetite to receive a, kind of, breakfast in bed.
Ever since the release of runaway mega-hit Boo'd Up, Ella Mai has been billed as the next great R&B pop artist. And there's some valid credence to that statement - Boo'd Up was a stellar introduction into the English singer-songwriter's career, a no-frills ballad with a classic nineties sound without resorting to shallow nostalgia. It proved that there's still some space for a tasteful, if slightly innocuous, earworm in between an army of here today, gone tomorrow trap-based hits.
T he curse of the one-hit wonder is a hard one to shake, especially for a newcomer with a platinum-certified international hit such as Boo'd Up. South London-born R&B singer Ella Mai broke through this year while touring this lovestruck anthem in the US - despite it being released almost 12 months prior - and there is pressure for her to cement herself in the scene beyond a single track. With A-list features (Chris Brown, John Legend and HER all appear here), Ella Mai's self-titled debut strives to provide some much-needed context to the artist behind this massive bop.
Ella Mai made history, earlier this year, as she became the first female UK artist to top the US R&B charts in 26 years with her single 'Boo'd Up'. Following this up comes her long-awaited debut album 'Ella Mai', which undoubtedly sets her up for more success. Opening up with 'Emotion', a 12-second spoken-word track, Mai sets up her eponymous 16-song album with the dictionary definition of the word 'emotion'.
T he British singer-songwriter Ella Mai has found huge success in the States. Handpicked by behemoth hip-hop producer DJ Mustard via Instagram, her schmaltzy, throwback-style R&B track Boo'd Up this year made her the first UK artist to top the US R&B charts since 1992 (the last was Lisa Stansfield's All Woman). As a result, Mai's debut album does feel distinctly American, foregoing the UK's current love of afrobashment and garage for a sparkling sound that nostalgically nods to 90s favourites.