Ella Mai Shines On Debut Album

– By Harrison Kirby

THE musical landscape changed dramatically in the wake of The X Factor. Personalities trumped voices and voices weren’t strong. Homogeneity ruled supreme, and of course, the sob story was often the deciding factor.

You would have been hard-pressed to have spotted 23-year-old English singer Ella Mai in 2014’s X Factor, where she appeared as part of girl group, Arize. The group was liked by the judges, but they unfortunately failed to make it to the live stages.

From here, Mai took to Instagram, uploading short covers of songs she liked, including Tupac’s Keep Your Head Up. The British singer was then contacted by hitmaker, DJ Mustard, who liked her unique sound, quickly signing her to his label, 10 Summer Records.

Soon after, Mai released summer-tinged “Boo’d Up”, a track off her third EP “Ready”. The song earned her moderate success and a supporting spot alongside Kehlani on her tour. Mai wore her influences on her sleeve here, the punchy chorus and her sultry but confident tone rung with American audiences. The song gained traction quickly and it became a run-away hit in the States, making Ella the first UK artist to top the R’n’B charts in 26 years.

The 26-year-old singer, who moved to America when she was 12, cites Lauryn Hill, Destiny’s Child and Chris Brown as influences, the latter appearing on Ella Mai’s debut album titled Ella Mai. It seems as if her English upbringing would go against the R’n’B stylings of these artists, but her down to earth, chill, South London attitude goes completely with her musical styles and her personality shines through.

An American fascination carries through much of her debut album, even into her Chris Brown and John Legend collaborations (both highlights of the album).

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As a whole, Ella Mai has created something somewhat substantial with her debut, coming from a throw it all at the wall approach. Sure, the lyrics are basic, clichéd and the style is repetitive, but Ella Mai makes it her own and she does it with such confidence it’s impossible to dislike.

The Mustard production is fantastic and Mai works hard to enliven the songs with her fiery vocals. It’s a groovy and interesting debut of an exciting young talent that is worth a listen.

– Edited by Fin Jupp


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