When BIMM London’s Ella Mai signed for 10 Summers – the revered LA R&B and hip-hop label run by DJ Mustard (TY Dolla $ign, Travi$ Scott), we knew her career was about to reach stratospheric heights. What we didn’t expect was for Ella to become the first British artist in 26 years to score a No.1 single on the US R&B chart a year later.
Ella has made chart history after knocking Drake’s Don’t Matter to Me off the top spot. This makes her the first UK singer to do so since three-time BRIT Award winner Lisa Stansfield’s All Woman went to No.1 in 1992.
After hearing the news, Ella, 23, joked on Twitter that she wasn’t even born at the time: “1992, before I was born. First in my lifetime. INSANE.” The single is Boo’d Up – a slow R&B ballad that oozes Teedra Moses, Amerie, Cassie and other R&B titans, with a slick, electronic instrumental.
Boo’d Up was actually released in 2017 but support stateside from none other than Rihanna, big-name San Francisco DJ Big Von – who has played it in clubs and on his local station KMEL – and Quavo from rap trio Migos, who remixed it with Nicki Minaj in July of this year, has seen it explode.
Now Ella – who has previously collaborated with rapper Chris Brown and many other big names – is being mentioned in the same vein as Charli XCX, Kyla and Paul McCartney – stars who have all featured on US R&B No.1 singles but never as a lead artist. The exposure has been enormous and, as a result, Boo’d Up (from her latest EP Ready) now sits at 5 on the main Billboard Hot 100.
Boo’d Up is also playlisted on BBC Radio 1 and on BBC Radio 1XTRA’s A-List, meaning UK chart acclaim could be close. Now the BBC, NME and The Guardian have been quick to weigh in on Ella’s incredible feat, praising the song and remix’s 6.3m combined streams and reception online.
Ella, who made a huge impression during her time at BIMM, says her success stateside is partly because audiences and labels are more receptive to R&B there than in the UK. “I think it’s harder for R&B to break in England because the radio and labels don’t really know what to do with R&B music,” she told the website Vulture. “It’s changing because it’s changing in America, but that doesn’t mean there’s nobody doing it, especially young females bringing it back.”
But Ella is already bucking that trend with her undeniable talent, as she did as a contestant on 2014’s The X-Factor. Surrey-born Ella – who was scouted for the show while studying at BIMM – made it through rehearsals, as one-third of the group Arize, after impressing Louis Walsh, Mel B, Cheryl and Simon Cowell with her rendition of Little Mix’s Little Me.
Michelle Humphreys, BIMM London’s Events, Masterclasses and Artist Development Manager, was instrumental in organising the auditions for X-Factor and is just one of several staff members that have played a part in Ella’s journey. She said: “Seeing Ella grow as an artist has been incredible! Breaking America is probably one of the biggest career goals that most UK artists work towards. Ella’s determination and raw talent has been a big part of her achieving that goal, now she’s making chart history.”
Ella Mai joins our illustrious BIMM alumni of successful musicians, which includes George Ezra, James Bay, Tom Odell, The Kooks and Izzy Bizu, with one of the biggest stories of the year. She is proof that hard work, determination and being in the right place at the right time is key to making it in the industry, as it is for everyone who benefits from the many opportunities at all of our BIMM colleges.
Photography Copyright – Meeno 2018