James Corden Conquers YouTube With 'Carpool Karaoke' | KERA News

James Corden Conquers YouTube With 'Carpool Karaoke'

Mar 8, 2016
Originally published on March 9, 2016 10:27 am

When James Corden took over The Late Late Show one year ago, the question on everyone's mind was, "James who?"

He was big in the U.K. In the U.S. he had starred in the movie Into the Woods and won a Tony for the play One Man, Two Guvnors on Broadway. But beyond that, he was relatively unknown.

So it's kind of unreal that after just one year in the chair, his show has broken records for people watching on YouTube.

That's mostly thanks to a segment called "Carpool Karaoke." Corden drives along with celebrities, just the two of them — in a car with a few mounted cameras — singing along to the stereo.

The video he made with Adele has been viewed more than 80 million times. He has also done Carpool Karaoke with about a dozen other pop stars, including Justin Bieber and Elton John. The Wall Street Journal called it one of the most successful YouTube franchises of all time.

My producer and I met Corden at his office on the CBS lot in LA where he films The Late Late Show. "All right, let's light a candle, shall we?" said Corden. "Three open-minded, broad-minded guys kicking back with a candle, right?" The candle has a masculine scent, like leather-bound books. Corden's T-shirt exposes his new temporary tattoo: Cookie Monster, courtesy of his young son.

Corden told me the idea for Carpool Karaoke came out of a segment he filmed with George Michael for a charity back in the U.K., but he couldn't get anybody in the U.S. to sing along.

Finally, he tried Mariah Carey. "It was a chance meeting with a lady at Mariah Carey's record company, who was here in our office, actually," he said. "And I pulled her in here, to this very office that we're sitting in now, and I played her the clip of George Michael singing, and I was like, it's joyful. And that's what people want, you want to see the joy in people, and you want to see the person that always dreamt of being a star, you know? You want to see people having a great time. So Mariah Carey is a huge fan of George Michael, she said 'if George will do it, I'll do it, let's do it on Sunday!' "


Interview Highlights

On the reaction to the first Carpool Karaoke

The second person we did it with was Jennifer Hudson, and that went through the roof. And then there's just been a couple of moments where — we did the one with Justin Bieber, which kind of went crazy, and I think is at 65 million views on YouTube right now. Both Justin and his manager were like, "that's me. That's the real me in that car, that's me who you're seeing on TV."

On whether Carpool Karaoke serves as a kind of image rehab for some stars

Sometimes you can have a reputation for not being relatable and nice because you had a bad day once. That's the thing. And I think that's particularly pertinent with Justin, because you just forget how young he is. When he gets in a car with me and I feel that about him — and I don't ever want to make a show which is snarky or trying to do someone over, or trying to make it about me, somehow. All I want is our guests to shine, because if our guests shine, our show shines, and if our show shines, then I shine. I don't ever want to come out and make anything about me ... and the whole thing is a collaboration, those carpools.

On whether he dreamed, as a child, of being a pop or theater star

Of course! To be honest, all I wanted to do, all I ever, ever wanted to do, I just wanted to perform. I just wanted to perform in whatever capacity, whether it was acting, singing, dancing, comedy — whatever it was, I just loved it and felt at my absolute happiest when I was performing for people. And if that's what you want from a job, then this is the best job you could ever do.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

When James Corden took over "The Late Late Show" one year ago, the question on everyone's mind was, James who? He was big in the U.K. In the U.S., he had starred in the movie "Into The Woods" and won a Tony for the play "One Man Two Guvnors" on Broadway. Beyond that, he was relatively unknown. So it's kind of unreal that after just one year in the chair, his show has broken records for people watching on YouTube. That's mostly thanks to a segment called Carpool Karaoke.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CORDEN AND ADELE: (Singing) It's no secret that the both of us are running out of time.

ADELE: That was amazing.

SHAPIRO: James Corden drives along with celebrities, just the two of them, in a car with a few mounted cameras singing along to the stereo.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CORDEN AND ADELE: (Singing) At least I can say that I tried to tell you I'm sorry for breaking your heart.

SHAPIRO: This video with Adele has been viewed more than 18 million times. He's also done Carpool Karaoke with about a dozen other pop stars, including Justin Bieber and Elton John.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CORDEN AND JOHN: (Singing) My gift is my song and, darling, this one's for you.

JAMES CORDEN: Oh, this is so much fun.

SHAPIRO: The Wall Street Journal called it one of the most successful YouTube franchises of all time.

Hi.

CORDEN: Hello.

SHAPIRO: I'm Ari.

CORDEN: So sorry to keep you waiting.

SHAPIRO: Not at all.

CORDEN: How are you?

SHAPIRO: Last week, my producer and I met Corden at his office on the CBS lot in LA, where he tapes "The Late Late Show."

CORDEN: All right, let's light a candle, shall we?

SHAPIRO: What's the scent here?

CORDEN: I don't know which one this is. We're three open-minded, broad-minded guys kicking back with a candle, right?

SHAPIRO: Dim the lights a little bit.

CORDEN: Sounds great, let's do it.

SHAPIRO: The candle was a masculine scent, like leather-bound books. Corden's T-shirt exposed his new temporary tattoo - Cookie Monster, courtesy of his young son. James Corden told me the idea for carpool karaoke came out of a segment he filmed with George Michael for a charity back in the U.K., but he couldn't get anybody in the U.S. to sing along. Finally, he tried Mariah Carey.

CORDEN: It was a chance meeting with a lady at Mariah Carey's record company who was here in our office, actually. And I pulled her in here to this very office that we're sitting in now, and I played her the clip of me and George Michael singing. And I was like, it's joyful. And that's what people want. You want to see the joy in people, and you want to see the person that always dreamt of being a star, you know? You want to see people having a great time. So Mariah Carey is a huge fan of George Michael. She said if George will do it, I'll do it. Let's do it on Sunday. So we're like, OK (laughter).

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CORDEN: Give me some sugar.

MARIAH CAREY: You give me the...

CORDEN: ...Give me some sugar.

CAREY: All right, one...

CORDEN: ...Give me some sugar.

CORDEN AND CAREY: (Singing) You did me kind, sweet destiny.

SHAPIRO: So you recorded this first Carpool Karaoke with Mariah Carey. And that what happens? The phone starts ringing off the hook with Justin Bieber and everyone else?

CORDEN: The second person we did it with was Jennifer Hudson, and that went through the roof.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CORDEN: Jennifer Hudson's going to sing my order, is that OK?

JENNIFER HUDSON: (Singing) I want a -

(LAUGHTER)

CORDEN: Cheeseburger.

HUDSON: (Singing) Girl, give me a cheeseburger.

CORDEN: And then there's just been a couple of moments where - we did the one with Justin Bieber, which kind of went crazy and I think is at, like 65 million views on YouTube right now.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JUSTIN BIEBER: Chilling by the fire while we're eating fondue.

CORDEN: Now that's the line where I don't know - where I'm out...

BIEBER: Why?

CORDEN: ...Because fondue is not a good date food.

BIEBER: Yeah, it is.

CORDEN: No, it's not. You end up with cheese dripping down your face.

BIEBER: I don't know what kind of fondue you have, but in America we have this thing called chocolate fondue.

CORDEN: I think you put fondue in there just 'cause it rhymes with whatever...

BIEBER: ...Yeah, you're right.

CORDEN: (Laughter).

(LAUGHTER, APPLAUSE)

BIEBER: It just sounded good.

CORDEN: Both Justin and his manager were like, that's me. That's the real me in that car. That's me who you're seeing on TV.

SHAPIRO: I wondered whether this is to some extent - I don't know if you want to call it personality rehabilitation, but when people are in that car, it feels so much more relatable.

CORDEN: Well, because...

SHAPIRO: ...Everyone comes off feeling so nice. And there are people who have been in that car with you who have a reputation for not necessarily being relatable and nice.

CORDEN: But sometimes you can have a reputation for not being relatable and nice because you had a bad day once. That's the thing. You know, I think that's particularly pertinent with Justin because, like, you just forget how young he is. When he gets in a car with me and I feel that about him - and I didn't want to ever make a show which is snarky or trying to do someone over or trying to make it about me somehow. Like, all I want is our guest to shine because if our guests shine, our show shines. And if our show shines, then I shine. I don't ever want to come out and make anything about me. I want to make it about them, make them the best that they can be. And the whole thing is a collaboration, those carpools. Stevie Wonder did it...

SHAPIRO: Right.

CORDEN: ...And Stevie Wonder doing it was a massive turning point because he's Stevie Wonder. Like, there's no one else in the world who can go, I don't really want to do it. And you go oh, so it's good enough for Stevie Wonder but it's not good enough for you?

SHAPIRO: He made you cry.

CORDEN: Yeah...

SHAPIRO: ...He called your wife.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

STEVIE WONDER: (Singing) I just called to say James loves you.

(LAUGHTER, APPLAUSE)

WONDER: (Singing) I just called to say how much he cares. I just called to say he loves you. And he promises to me that he will let me be on his show for an hour (laughter).

(LAUGHTER)

CORDEN: You know, if that was an auction prize it would just go for hundreds of thousands of dollars. And here am I, seemingly being paid to do such a thing for my job. I mean, it's crazy to me.

SHAPIRO: Will you show us how you prep for them? I mean, you spit lyrics like you have been singing them for decades.

CORDEN: Well, I mean, I don't really prepare for them. I...

SHAPIRO: ...I don't believe that. You know all of those lyrics to all of those songs?

CORDEN: No, I would listen to them because the biggest thing with the carpools is they have to have a lot of hits, and I've got to be a fan.

SHAPIRO: Have you ever had a, there's a bathroom on the right moment, like, where you get lyric wrong? There's a bad moon on the rise?

CORDEN: Oh, for sure...

SHAPIRO: OK, tell me about it.

CORDEN: ...Yeah, with Chris Martin.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CORDEN: (Singing) Now a few cherished little bells are ringing.

CHRIS MARTIN: What are you singing there?

CORDEN: What is it?

MARTIN: You said huge erushelu (ph) bells.

CORDEN: No, a few cherished - is it not?

MARTIN: (Laughter, unintelligible).

CORDEN: No, what is it?

MARTIN: A few cherished...

CORDEN: ...Little bells are ringing?

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: Yeah, let's go with that.

CORDEN: No, what is it then?

MARTIN: It doesn't matter.

CORDEN: No, it does. What is the lyric?

MARTIN: That's music.

CORDEN: Oh no, I hear Jerusalem bells are ringing?

MARTIN: Yeah, that's what I sing.

CORDEN: That's what you sing?

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: You can sing whatever you like.

CORDEN AND MARTIN: (Singing) I hear Jerusalem bells are ringing, Roman cavalry choirs are singing.

CORDEN: And that should be proof that I don't study them.

SHAPIRO: Did you, when you were a kid, dream of being a pop star?

CORDEN: Of course.

SHAPIRO: A theater star? Like -

CORDEN: To be honest, all I wanted to do, all I ever, ever wanted to do - I just wanted to perform. I just wanted to perform in whatever capacity, whether it was acting, singing, dancing, you know, comedy. Like, whatever it is, I just loved it and felt at my absolute happiest when I was performing for people. And if that's what you want from a job, then this is the best job you could ever do.

SHAPIRO: Well, James Corden, congratulations on your anniversary. Thank you so much for talking with us.

CORDEN: Well, thank you for even caring. It really truly means a lot. You are an adorable man, and I'm - this has been a lovely amount of time to spend in your company. Truly, I could it for the rest of the day. It means a lot. Thank you. Cheers.

SHAPIRO: That's James Corden, who is marking one year hosting "The Late Late Show."

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CORDEN AND JOHN: (Singing) We were hopping and bopping to the crocodile rock. Well, the crocodile rock, it was out of sight. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.