The public has spoken: they don’t necessarily want jokes from their late-night shows. They want to watch celebrities acting goofy. And it certainly helps if music is involved, as the success of Jimmy Fallon’s lip sync battles and James Corden’s Carpool Karaoke attests. Fallon and Corden’s shows resemble old school variety shows as much as they do a talk show, or at least the kind of late-night talk show we came to expect after Letterman changed the rules in the ‘80s and ‘90s. They may not hinge on sharp jokes or cutting-edge comedy, but Corden and Fallon both know how to entertain an audience and make guests feel at ease. For Corden that’s lead to some high profile guests on those Carpool Karaoke segments, as well as massive success on Youtube. Indeed, his Youtube clips have far more viewers than his show, and it’s not hard to imagine there are many people out there who solely know him from the internet. Carpool Karaoke is more than a celebrity game, though—Corden’s patter with the guests can lead to some great, interesting stories for fans of the artist and music in general, and some of the performances are legitimately great, even in the weird, cramped setting. Let’s take a quick look at the best Carpool Karaoke videos so far, in no particular order, featuring a wide range of singers from today and the past.
Gwen Stefani has a good voice and a good nature, which makes her a great fit for Carpool Karaoke. Her rapport with Corden is easy and charming as they sing their way through a smattering of hits from No Doubt and her solo career. And then there’s a surprise drop in from a couple of big name guests, and although it might be a little too blatantly promotional (they have no reason to be there other than plugging their movie that just opened), the two additional stars only add to the piece’s charms.
It’s no surprise that Elton John and Corden would get along so well—they’re both flamboyant showmen. Corden has a history with musical comedy and Broadway, and Elton John, well, is Elton John. The two get on like old friends in this great clip as they run through the Elton John songbook.
The Adele video became an instant internet sensation, racking up over 40 million hits in like five days. It’s still the best thing that’s ever happened for Corden’s Late Late Show. Adele always comes off like a grounded, sensible, real person, and that’s definitely true of her interactions with Corden in their home city of London. Odds are, no matter how long Corden’s show stays on the air, this will always be its biggest and most popular moment.
After getting through an obvious but effective gag, Corden and living legend Stevie Wonder settle in for the best music from any Carpool Karaoke video. Wonder’s always had a playful persona, and it meshes well with Corden’s eagerness to please. This is a fun clip with great music and some fine singing from Wonder.
Like the Wonder clip, Sia’s appearance starts with a joke that is both expected and yet still funny. Also expected is that Sia would blow away most Carpool Karaoke singers, and that definitely happens here. Her voice is simply amazing, even when joined by a goofy British guy in a small car.
This one’s worth watching for a few reasons. First off, Rod Stewart doesn’t seem entirely into the idea. It’s not that awkward, or anything, but he’s certainly less playful than most of the guests, and isn’t nearly as committed to either the singing or the conversation. He does share some great stories about being a rock band on the road in the ‘70s, though, and when the playlist hits some of his older work with the Faces it features some fantastic music. There’s also a great, surprising cameo several minutes in, which the Youtube title totally spoils. Sorry!
Bieber’s done a few of these now, even though he’s never really seemed to especially enjoy himself during any of them. Of course that’s part of his image—even when he’s having fun he still seems like a stuck-up jerk. This post-Grammy edition is the best of the three, because there’s some good material in there about awards shows and the unnecessary gifts they give to the stars who attend them. This might be the most overtly comedic of all the Carpool Karaoke videos, which makes sense—to anybody outside his fanbase, Bieber is an absolute charisma void, and so Corden and his writers had to compensate with jokes. It works.