Carpool Karaoke: 20 Best Episodes Ranked - Rolling Stone
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The 20 Best Carpool Karaoke Episodes, Ranked

From Mariah Carey to Harry Styles to Adele to Michelle Obama, the best, most memorable musical segments on The Late Late Show with James Corden

Karaoke is a party pastime that doubles as psychological experiment – revealing what people do when they grab a microphone and, for a few minutes, pretend to be someone else. But it can take a more meta turn, too, especially as a hugely popular, viral fixture on the The Late Late Show with James Corden.

In “Carpool Karaoke,” the chipper host takes a celebrity (usually a musical artist) on a joyride, typically in traffic-clogged Los Angeles. Corden turns on the radio, and, surprise! It’s one of their own songs. Icons like Stevie Wonder and Lady Gaga sing along and talk through life, love and Twitter beefs. The medley of duets range from entertaining to unnerving, given how many times Corden takes his hands off the wheel to dance in the driver’s seat. 

Ahead of the spinoff show’s Apple Music premiere on August 8th, we’ve ranked the 20 most memorable “Carpool Karaoke” segments. 

13

Madonna

There’s something soothing about seeing the Queen of Pop ride around with Corden – in New York, a rare feat for “Carpool Karaoke” – striking poses while singing “Vogue,” even though the two are definitely a road hazard as they twerk in their seats. It’s delicious, too, when she throws shade at Corden for his outfit.

12

Sia

In addition to showcasing her powerful voice – she sings “Diamonds,” which she wrote for Rihanna – and her belief in aliens, the singer-songwriter also speaks candidly about her decision to cover her face with wigs and hats. Then there’s the random oddities, including her secret talent for holding twelve eggs in both of her double-jointed hands.

11

Harry Styles

He’s come a long way. The last time Styles was on Carpool Karaoke, he was sitting in the back middle seat with his One Direction bandmates. Now he’s up front with Corden, belting solo singles like “Sign of the Times” plus songs mere mortals might actually try at karaoke, like “Hey Ya!”. (Turns out the star had a karaoke machine growing up). The bit in which they reenact famous romantic comedies is gold.

10

George Michael

The one that inspired the franchise: Back in 2011, a pre-Late Late Corden conceptualized a sketch that involved driving to work at Comic Relief while singing with Michael beside him. As Corden remembered following the “Faith” singer’s December 2016 death, the brief segment, which features Corden turning on the radio and the two (clad in matching tracksuits) resolving an argument by belting Wham!’s “I’m Your Man” is what got Mariah Carey and other greats on board for later iterations.

9

Jennifer Hudson

The episode is one of the few that feels like a genuine hang session. Hudson and Corden go to Astro Burger, where she sings their order through the drive-thru window; later, the twosome takes selfies on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. By her star, of course, which is well-deserved: Hudson is committed and hypnotic. 

8

Bruno Mars

In between joyous numbers like “24K Magic” and dance breaks, Mars talks silk shirts, dons outlandish hats (“You’re almost Slash,” Corden tells him of one) and does a killer Elvis impersonation he’s been working on since age four.

7

Rod Stewart & A$AP Rocky

The legendary rocker and rapper have a jam together, “Everyday,” and Stewart recounts some incredible stories: The Faces used to check into hotels as Fleetwood Mac because they were banned from Holiday Inn. In the words of a passerby who rolls down the window in disbelief: “God bless you, Rod Stewart.”

6

Lady Gaga

Mother Monster would be a fantastic IRL karaoke partner, given her knack for ad-libbing O-Town, as seen here. Her episode also serves an impromptu driving lesson: at the time of filming, she had just gotten her license. She also puts up with Corden as he wears renditions of some of her famous dresses, including the meat dress, and herself dons a sparkling bow shirt – which, in with the Los Angeles sunshine, lights up the entire car like a disco ball. That’s star power.

5

Adele

Besides having a once-in-a-generation voice, Adele happens to be a charming guest. The fellow Brits have a genuine rapport and rock out to the Spice Girls. Throughout the segment, she breaks the fourth wall to share factoids (she played the drums on “Hello”) and drunken anecdotes. 

4

Demi Lovato and Nick Jonas

Longtime buddies and Disney Channel survivors Lovato and Jonas lovingly tease each other while belting each other’s songs like “Heart Attack.” The goofy, self-deprecating pair are game to form a folksy street band with Corden – which happens to be smack-dab in front of TMZ tour bus, no less.

3

Elton John

As Rocket Man rides around with Corden on a rainy L.A. day – appropriate, since they’re both English – they shoot the shit about “Your Song,” dress up in fabulous boas (and a lion’s mane, during “The Circle of Life”) and turn the jaunt into a full-on party. John also reveals that he doesn’t have a phone, and spends much of the ride praising young, edgy artists like Sarah Basko and Grimes.

2

Michelle Obama and Missy Elliott

This special episode, filmed towards the end of the Obama era, features the First Lady putting on some of her favorite tunes for a starstruck Corden, including Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” and Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies” as they cruise around the White House premises. The always-transfixing Missy Elliott briefly pops in the backseat to spit rhymes from “This Is For My Girls,” the charity single she recorded with Zendaya, Janelle Monae and others. And, of course, there’s a “Get Your Freak On” moment. 

1

Stevie Wonder

Stevie Wonder is a light, and not just because his pipes get more heavenly as the years go by. During his spin around Los Angeles, he busts out classics like “Superstitious,” serenades Corden’s wife, endlessly mocks Corden’s English accent, and invites him to join a new group, the Wondercats. He also implores Corden to never touch a harmonica, ever. He’s got a point: Why mess with perfection? 

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