On Saturday Night Live, Ella Mai is Pure '90s R&B Heartthrob

It’s been a deservedly good year for Ella Mai, the British singer who had one of Rolling Stone’s 2018 Songs of Summer with her debut single “Boo’d Up.”

Last night marked another debut for Mai, Saturday Night Live, and she served up 90s nostalgia in a way that still felt incredibly timely and cool.

First, she sang a beautiful rendition of “Boo’d Up” in a couture version of the Tommy Hilfiger metallic windbreaker that our moms said wasn’t worth the money. See, mom? It was. It totally was.


For her second performance, she sang “Trip,” a slow jam that made me want to awkwardly sway back and forth in a middle school gym while leaving enough room for Jesus between me and my sweaty parter. And she sang it in front of a chain link fence with a smoke machine just like they used to in music videos of yore.  

In February, Vibe described Mai as “kindred to R&B heartthrobs of the ‘90s, who flooded the radio airwaves with soulful ballads, baby-making tunes, and heart-wrenching break-up anthems.”

Keep that flood coming, Ella Mai.

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Honestly, Ella Mai’s sets we’re just basic. They’ve taken another light-skinned, lightly- talented Black chick and propelled her forward to accolades by the undiscerning masses. Has no one gained any insight from decades of American Idol, The Voice, etc.?!

For her American tv debut, where was her stage presence or rhythym? She did a 3-step move upstage and back in the same spot adding an occasional hand gesture.

Who styled her? Diana Ross, Donna Summer and Chaka Khan’s hair stylist should be retired or dead by now! It looked like she did her own makeup and that alleged couture outfit wasn’t outre enough to spectacularly announce itself neither did it showcase her figure or hide it.

Lastly, lazy set design is an aesthetic (I guess) but Ella Mai’s voice wasn’t strong (surprise!) and neither her nor her backup singers’ mics were amped properly.

The whole thing was amateur. And I like the overplayed song!