Culture

Why Corden's 'Carpool Karaoke' Rules

There’s nothing more embarrassing than singing karaoke when you can’t hit a single note.

That doesn’t stop plenty of would-be crooners, whose ear-shattering takes on the classics haunt bars the world over.

James Corden has a sunnier take on karaoke singing.

The host of “The Late Late Show” is the new kid on the talk show block. He took over for Craig Ferguson last year but lacked the high-profile resume of his peers. Sadly, not enough people caught his small role in the 2014 gem “Begin Again.”

Yet he’s managed to shoulder his way into the headlines thanks to his recurring bit, “Carpool Karaoke.”

It’s tough to argue with more than 600 million YouTube views. And now the segment is going international.

The premise couldn’t be more simple. Corden invites his show’s musically inclined guests to sing away while he takes them for a spin. So far, music superstars like Justin Bieber, Gwen Stefani, Jennifer Hudson, Stevie Wonder, Mariah Carey, Adele and … Chewbacca Mask Lady have hopped in Corden’s car.

OK, the last guest isn’t nearly as famous as the rest. But this week she was bigger than all of the others combined.

So what’s the magic behind the recurring bit? It starts with our still-potent admiration for “American Idol” style programming. Yes, the FOX mega-hit finally is off the air, but its appeal endures. We love classic songs as well as anyone who can reinterpret them with panache.

These segments also let the stars let loose while putting aside their celebrity posturing. It’s hard to look elegant while seated in a car. So the guests don’t even try. They get lost in the moment, and suddenly we can relate to them.

They just happen to sing 1,000 percent better than we ever could.

Corden isn’t too shabby a singer himself. So when he joins his guests it’s hardly embarrassing. What’s more, Corden is clearly a fanboy at heart. Just watch him singing with Adele. He’s giddy to share a car microphone with her, and it shows.

The late-night format is typically programmed down to the last second. Guests go through “pre-interviews” to prep what they hope to talk about once they settle down on the host’s couch. The rest of the shows are often just as manufactured.

There’s plenty of planning behind Corden’s karaoke segment. The format still allows for flashes of spontaneity.

And, in our viral video age, what better way to spend three-plus minutes while surfing Facebook?