Since Ella Mai released her debut single “Boo’d Up” in February 2017, the British singer has been on the rise, opening for Bruno Mars on his 24K Magic World Tour, earning a slew of award nominations and releasing her self-titled debut album in October. Her ascension continued with her Saturday Night Live debut on the Steve Carell-hosted episode.
For Mai’s first performance on the show, she played a soulful rendition of her breakout hit “Boo’d Up,” which Rolling Stone named one of 2018’s Songs of the Summer.
Later in the show, the 24-year-old singer returned to perform the smoldering “Trip,” while swaying in front of a fence and a bench backdrop. While the downtempo song didn’t allow for backup dancers, her vocals were accompanied by her sweetly harmonizing backup singers
Mai first began gaining recognition as a part of the London girl group Arzie, who appeared briefly on the British version of The X-Factor in 2014. While things didn’t pan out for Mai on the show, she began posting pop song covers on Instagram.
Soon DJ Mustard, who helped craft hits for YG, 2 Chainz, Big Sean and Rihanna, took notice. In 2015, he invited Mai into the studio for some sessions, eventually signing her to his label. Mai went onto make a trio of EPs with him. “Boo’d Up” appeared on the third EP, which was released in February 2017. Mai ended up touring with Kehlani, which helped “Boo’d Up” get more airplay and subsequently made it a hit in 2018.
“R&B is not dead,” Mai told Rolling Stone in reference to the success of “Boo’d Up.” “We can make it mainstream again. Clearly, people love it.”
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Ahead of this week’s episode, Mai starred in an SNL promo for the Thanksgiving episode alongside Carell and Kenan Thompson where the singer was asked by Thompson what she was thankful for, to which she replied “getting to be on SNL.”