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'Ella Mai' review: Strong debut album for British R&B singer-songwriter

Ella Mai's "Ella Mai."

Ella Mai's "Ella Mai." Photo Credit: 10 Summers/Interscope

ELLA MAI

"Ella Mai"

BOTTOM LINE The R&B singer-songwriter is way more than “Boo’d Up.”

Ella Mai is set for stardom.

Sure, her single “Boo’d Up” is an undeniable love song, the kind of groove that never gets old, which would help explain why it has topped the R&B charts for the past four months.

But her debut, “Ella Mai” (10 Summers/Interscope), reveals the British singer-songwriter, who grew up in Manhattan, to have so much more to offer. The 23-year-old combines the laid-back neo-soul of Ledisi or Estelle with the edge and timeliness of Rihanna throughout  her 15 tracks to create a solid album with no filler.

The current single, “Whatchamacallit,” with Chris Brown should continue “Boo’d Up's” radio domination with its breezy cool vibe, though the clever “Good Bad” could easily do the same. What impresses more is how Mai holds her own with John Legend on the neo-soul ballad “Everything” and how she handles the poignant ballad “Naked,” which could cross over to multiple formats with its Ed Sheeran-esque simplicity and Mai’s hopeful vocals.

“You don’t know if I’m a saint or a sinner yet,” Mai croons in the charming “Sauce.” “But you already singing Ella praises.”

True, on both counts, but “Ella Mai” will guarantee plenty more praises.

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