Pop Shop Podcast: Ella Mai Talks 'Dream' Success of 'Boo'd Up' & Freaking Out After Beyonce Name-Checked the Song


Welcome to the new episode the Billboard Pop Shop Podcast, your one-stop-shop for all things pop on Billboard's weekly charts. In addition, you can always count on a lively discussion about the latest pop news, fun chart stats and stories, new music, and guest interviews with music stars and folks from the world pop.

Casual pop fans and chart junkies can hear Billboard senior director charts Keith Caulfield and Billboard deputy editor, digital, Katie Atkinson, every week on the Pop Shop Podcast, which can be streamed on Billboard.com or downloaded in iTunes. (Click here to listen to the previous Tuesday’s edition the show on Billboard.com).

On the latest show, we’re joined by rising star Ella Mai! She’s made a splash in recent weeks on Billboard’s charts with her breakthrough single “Boo’d Up,” which hit No. 1 on the Hot R&B Songs chart and reached the top 10 on the all-genre Billboard Hot 100 chart. Further, the track has garnered 230 million on-demand streams (audio and video combined) in the U.S. through June 14, according to Nielsen Music.

The cut — written by Joelle James, Mai, Mustard and Larrance Dopson — is from Mai’s third EP, Ready, which was released on Mustard’s 10 Summers label Interscope Records. Mustard signed Mai to his label in 2016, after discovering her on Instagram, where she had posted snippets her singing covers songs by acts like Adele, Drake, Kehlani and Michael Jackson.

“It’s just been really crazy but amazing at the same time,” the 23-year-old Mai tells Billboard the whirlwind success she’s experienced with “Boo’d Up.” “I always say this is the stuff that you dream about. Like I’ve dreamed about having a No. 1.”

The title “Boo’d Up” comes from the song’s lyrics in its chorus, which describe the sound the heartbeat a person deep in love. “Listen to my heart go bah-doo, boo’d up. Bee-dee dah doo, boo’d up. Hear my heart go bah-doo, boo’d up. Bee-dee dah doo, it just won’t stop…”

“It’s funny… I had someone tweet me, ‘if that’s how your heart sounds, then you have an issue,’” she says, laughing. “Like you need to go to the hospital.”

“We wanted to make the song really fun, which I think we succeeded in. And we wanted to make it just like an innocent, puppy love (song). It’s clean, there’s no cursing in it or anything, so every age can appreciate that.”

As for Mustard finding her on Instagram, Mai says he sent her a direct message (a private message that only the account holder can see) and basically asked her “what’s your situation?”

“I definitely had to go on his page and make sure that he had the verified tick,” she says, “because I was like 'this could be anyone.' But it was definitely him.”

Since that connection, the pair collaborated on three EPs and course “Boo’d Up.”

Mai says she was influenced by the likes Alicia Keys, Christina Aguilera, Lauryn Hill and Beyoncé.

Speaking Beyoncé, “I actually got word the other day,” Mai says, “because you know she's on tour right now (with JAY-Z), that (at a show)… before she went into ‘Bonnie and Clyde,’ she was like 'Oh, who in here is ‘Boo'd Up?’’ or something like that. And I was like 'Oh my…'. Yeah, I died. So I was like 'wait, does Beyoncé know this song?!' It's really crazy.”

In addition to the interview with Mai, the Pop Shop team discusses the death XXXTentacion, Beyoncé and JAY-Z’s surprise collaborative album, Dave Matthews Band’s new No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and the return  Louis Prima and George Benson to the charts.

Listen above and click here to subscribe/rate the Pop Shop Podcast on iTunes.