Entertainment

Every James Corden 'Carpool Karaoke' Video, Ranked

adele james corden carpool karaoke
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In a land where every late-night talk show is only as relevant as its most viral clip, Jimmy Fallon and John Oliver reign. But with his insanely popular "Carpool Karaoke" segments, The Late Late Show host James Corden is a cheery prince.

As the segment grows in popularity, now's a good time to take stock of Corden's odes to the radio sing-along. How exactly do you rank videos of a talk show host and various celebrity passengers crooning in a car tricked out with cameras? Through a highly scientific analysis of each clip's vocal performance, "laugh factor," and whether or not you'd want to spend your lunch break watching it. Buckle your seat belt!

43. Christmas Carpool

No shots at Christmas or joy, but this is more of a glorified clip package than a full "Carpool Karaoke" segment. We see Carrie Underwood, Jason Derulo, Justin Bieber, and a few others sing bits of "Joy to the World," and that's about it. It does make you wonder if bandleader Reggie Watts will ever get his own "Carpool" segment.

42. Chris Martin

We would never be so rude as to say Coldplay sucks. But the band's ever-chipper frontman makes this road trip a bit of a slog, even when he brings out his own keyboard and does a sweet cover of David Bowie's "Heroes." At the very least, you get to see Chris Martin do his impressions of Bruce Springsteen and Mick Jagger.

41. One Direction

I know it's dangerous to say anything against "One Direction" on the internet, but I'm not scared: this "Carpool Karaoke" is overrated. Too many people in the car. Too much emphasis on the singing. Too much fan service. I like my talk-show viral videos with a little more integrity -- sorry, 1D fans. 

40. Mariah Carey

Sure, this isn't a great one, but let's cut Mimi some slack. She did the first "Carpool Karaoke," and she couldn't have known this was going to become a franchise people would rank and obsess over. Like, Vin Diesel would probably do some things differently with the first Fast and Furious if he knew it was going to spawn all those sequels, right? 

39. Iggy Azalea

The big revelation here is that Iggy Azalea seems so… down-to-earth? That's cool for her. But this is "Carpool Karaoke." Bring your A game, or don't bother showing up on the court.

38. Shawn Mendes

The 20-year-old Vine-star-turned-chart-topper is an affable enough carpool partner and crooner, but his trip is pretty uneventful. Mendes mostly comes off as a bland, kind-hearted Canadian boy. ("I don't even honk," he says when asked about road rage.) A conversation about Justin Bieber's underpants is about as stale as it sounds and the "costume change" bit here, where Mendes dresses like Harry Potter characters, is especially half-hearted. Same goes for a trip to a hockey rink. If this was a Vine, you wouldn't want it to loop.

37. Carrie Underwood

This one features a lengthy boot-shopping detour that's pretty light on laughs -- and singing! -- but the end, which has Corden facing off against Underwood in a "who can hold this note longer?" contest, is pretty funny. Also, Underwood's Wham! fandom makes this one worth watching. 

36. "All I Want for Christmas" Carpool

This is the better of the two Christmas-edition "Carpool" videos: shorter, sweeter, and gives everyone another chance to listen to Mariah Carey's holiday banger.  

35. Usher

When a "Carpool Karaoke" segment involves multiple bits outside of the vehicle, that's usually a bad sign. Usher certainly has enough hits to fuel a long car ride and his voice sounds great, but the dance tutorial, along with a section where he cleans his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, feels a little corny and forced. Similarly, the banter about Usher's veganism feels like standard talk-show anecdote fluff. Keep the focus on the songs, guys!

34. Rod Stewart and A$AP Rocky

You can tell Rod Stewart isn't really into this whole concept toward the beginning, so it's a relief when A$AP Rocky hops into the back of the car to give this segment a boost of youthful energy. Luckily, the "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?" singer finds his footing -- and even lets Corden touch his luscious hair once he gets a little more comfortable. 

33. Justin Bieber (post-Grammys)

This is a short one, but that's what makes it work. Plus, the double-white-tuxedo combo is always a good (ridiculous) look.

32. Demi Lovato and Nick Jonas

This one is pretty charming. Corden is committed to making Nick Jonas uncomfortable by mentioning the purity ring era and Demi Lovato gets to show off her impressive singing chops. But why do they always feel the need to leave the car? The short outdoor concert segment drags the pace a bit. Doing "Carpool Karaoke" is like riding a roller coaster: Keep your arms and legs inside the vehicle at all times.

31. Katy Perry

Carpool Karaoke can be an important source of news: In the midst of Witness's whirlwind rollout, which might still be going on in the depths of YouTube, Katy Perry re-hashed her feud with Taylor Swift and said she was ready for the "petty bullshit" to be done. But, besides the gossip, this is a pretty uneventful trip. In certain moments, Perry brings almost too much of a genuine oddball energy to really jibe with the faux-familiarity of Corden's viral play pen. It's not quite the Teenage Karaoke Dream I was hoping for.

30. Selena Gomez

Sometimes "Carpool Karaoke" actually includes a roller coaster! While the roller coaster part feels a little gimmick-ey and a detour to McDonald's isn't super eventful, Gomez, like her former flame Justin Bieber, has really solid "Carpool" dance moves. She kills her own songs and proves to be an ideal dry comic foil to Corden. Let's get these two in Spring Breakers 2

29. Gwen Stefani with George Clooney and Julia Roberts

We've entered the over-stuffed blockbuster era of "Carpool Karaoke." Having already ranked all these videos, I'm hardly the right person to question the integrity of a viral late-night show segment compromising itself by letting movie stars crash the car when they have a movie to promote, but it does feel a little... icky. But the Queen part? Pretty great. 
 

28. Miley Cyrus

It's surprising it took so long for the-artist-formerly-known-as-Hannah-Montana to make a "Carpool Karaoke" appearance. She's clearly got the pipes to belt out hits like "Wrecking Ball" while careening through traffic. It's just too bad she showed up to promote her recent album Younger Now, a collection of sleepy soft-rock songs that don't exactly lend themselves to great karaoke fodder. Though she tells a story about a hit-and-run on the set of The Voice early in the segment, most of her ride is as tame as these things get. She's right: It would've been more fun if they hot-boxed the car instead.

27. Lady Gaga

We all know Lady Gaga can sing, but did you know she can drive too? In this lengthy entry in the series -- seriously, nobody needs over 15 minutes of "Carpool Karaoke" -- the "Poker Face" provocateur takes a turn behind the wheel, wears her big pink Joanne hat, and mostly sticks to her own songs. The singing is fine and the "Benedict Cumberbatch" vocal warm-ups are funny, but it's a bummer she doesn't do more covers. Part of the problem might be that it's hard to mine original humor from Gaga in 2016. Save your meat dress jokes, Corden.

26. Adam Levine

Corden kicks off this carpool karaoke segment by joking that he and Levine, the tattooed Maroon 5 frontman and The Voice coach, were just "two dads" going for a drive. And that's mostly the vibe here, with Corden playing the role of goofball father figure and Levine playing the more stern, serious papa. They do get pulled over by a cop at one point, a seemingly un-staged incident that somehow has never happened during one of these clips before. So, at least there's some novelty!

25. Madonna

You'd be surprised how much voguing you can do in a car seat. Madonna makes good use of her time here, putting her feet on the ceiling and eventually out the window -- all while channeling her '80s self. She mostly sticks to her hits but she has the deep catalog to make it work. The best part: Madonna playing fashion critic and roasting Corden's "very Seattle 1990s" flannel shirt.

24. Sam Smith and Fifth Harmony

It's often easy for Corden to pick up a rapport with fellow English performers, so Sam Smith has no trouble settling into the segment's cheeky demands. He jokes about gaining weight, getting starstruck meeting Ryan Gosling, and skipping school to go to a Lady Gaga concert. But Smith's watery, melancholy ballads don't exactly get the carpool lane popping. Luckily Fifth Harmony, one of Smith's favorite groups, surprises him near the end to provide a jolt of much-needed musical energy.

23. Britney Spears

"What's it really about?" asks Corden early on in this soul-searching karaoke trip. In the moment, he's asking Britney Spears about her 1998 mega-hit "...Baby One More Time," but he could've just as easily been speaking more generally about a number of topics: music, love, life, or the fragile nature of existence. Spears doesn't exactly have all the answers -- she spends much of the ride discussing her desire for more children, the fake names she uses, and tickle fetishists -- but the Crossroads star is a compelling companion for this existential journey down the freeway. And, yes: they sing "Toxic," too. 

22. Lin-Manuel Miranda 

When Corden was announced as the host of the Tony Awards this year, a Broadway "Carpool Karaoke" felt inevitable, and this busy, very loud segment didn't disappoint. The Hamilton writer and star is a charming guest, but things really pick up when Audra McDonald, Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Jane Krakowski hop in the car. If you spent any time at cast parties for high school musicals, this clip will make you nostalgic -- or give you harrowing flashbacks.  

21. Bruno Mars

Costume changes are an essential part of many of the best "Carpool Karaoke" segments; this Bruno Mars clip is no exception. Corden and the pint-sized crooner try on a series of silly hats, discuss his Elvis-impersonating past, and sing along to horndog R&B jams like "Versace on the Floor." These two have low-key comic chemistry, but why don't we hear Mars sing some more Elvis songs? Maybe next time.

20. Ariana Grande

In her appearances on SNL and The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, Ariana Grande has shown off her gift for impersonations, especially when she's imitating her favorite divas from childhood. Unsurprisingly, she does her take on Celine Dion here, which fans will remember from other late night appearances, but it's still funny. A bit where Corden carries her on his back into a Starbucks, a riff on a tabloid rumor that she needed to be carried everywhere, doesn't really go anywhere, but the segment ends strong with the pair belting out one of their favorite Little Shop of Horrors songs, giving you a little taste of Broadway right in the carpool lane.

19. Jennifer Lopez

J. Lo is the ultimate professional. So it was no surprise that the American Idol judge killed the singing part of her "Carpool" challenge, but the real highlights are when she gives Corden some music video choreography tips and lends the gabby host her phone to text Leonardo DiCaprio. His response is everything you'd hope for. 

18. Jason Derulo

Derulo hits like "Want to Want Me" and "Talk Dirty" are probably a better fit for the club than the carpool lane, but the charming singer makes the tracks come alive as he cruises down the freeway with Corden. And let's give the guy some extra credit: he was out till 6am the night before they filmed this. That's dedication! 

17. Red Hot Chili Peppers

There aren't many rock bands that have dared to jump in the car -- I can't imagine Radiohead singing "Paranoid Android" as they drive around London with cheery Corden -- but the Red Hot Chili Peppers end up being a perfect fit for the segment's jocular tone. They sing. They wrestle. They take their clothes off. They even saved a baby's life! What can't these guys do? 

16. Christina Aguilera

Compared to many of the other guests, Aguilera spends more time instructing Corden on how to use his voice, turning this round of karaoke into a diva session training. (Melissa McCarthy is also along for some of the ride, too.) It sounds forced, but Aguilera is a pro and she sells the strained premise with her killer vocals. Plus, they stay in the car the whole time and don't make you sit through a bunch of costume jokes. What more do you want?  

15. Justin Bieber Vol. 2

Sequels rarely live up to the hype -- just ask Batman v Superman -- but this one is pretty great. It relies a bit too much on non-carpool comedy -- I don't really need a Corden and Bieber shopping trip -- but the dance moves are strong throughout, and we get a cover of Kanye West's "Stronger" and Alanis Morissette's "Ironic." As Bieber would say, swag.

14. Ed Sheeran

Why are British artists, with a few exceptions, generally so good at Carpool Karaoke? Part of it just might be that Corden can quickly find common ground with fellow wayward countrymen and women. Sheeran's watery folk-soul ballads might be interchangeable to my ears, but the red-haired singer stands out here by telling Bieber drinking stories, discussing his love of "skanky pubs," and even playing with Corden's nipples. (Oddly, Harry Styles also got in on the nipple action during his appearance.) Like Sheeran himself, the clip feels both somehow scuzzy and charming.

13. Foo Fighters

Besides the Red Hot Chili Peppers, rock bands are hard to find in Corden's tricked-out van. (U2 has to do it at some point, right?) But the Foo Fighters, Dave Grohl's long-running arena mainstays, are uniquely suited for a communal jam session: Most of their best songs are ideally screamed along to while air-drumming on a steering wheel. Even when the group ditches the wheels for actual instruments during an "impromptu" stop at a Guitar Center, they keep the goofy comic energy going.

12. Sia

I was surprised how much I liked this one. Not only does it open with a great sight gag where Sia can't see Corden, we get to see the "Chandelier" singer hold a dozen eggs in her hands and talk about aliens. Also, at one point, Corden tries on a Sia wig and says it feels like a "head hug." That's a pretty apt description of this video.

11. Michelle Obama

Watching Michelle Obama sing Beyoncé and Stevie Wonder with Corden, while also promoting her Let Girls Learn project, is a lot of fun, but this clip leaps to another level when Missy Elliott pops up in the back seat and joins the First Lady for a patriotic rendition of "Get Ur Freak On" as they roll around the White House lawn. America is a beautiful country. 

10. Barbra Streisand

Barbra Streisand is in the driver seat for this one and it's a more high-pressure scenario than usual. "I failed three times," she tells Corden when he asks her about her recent driving test to renew her license. With ace comedic timing, she startles herself and lets go of the wheel for a second. (Be safe!) Compared to so many modern pop stars, who just want to appear chill and nonchalant, Streisand isn't afraid to come off a little neurotic behind the wheel, and it really helps this one stand out.

9. Harry Styles

Harry Styles doesn't have a robust back catalog as a solo artist, which hinders his ability to really have an all-time great carpool session. But, like Justin Bieber, he's willing to play the bemused studly goof -- just watch the outfit-switching session, the rom-com read-throughs, and the bit about crying to his own song -- and Corden makes the most of it. Plus, unlike some of the older legacy artists that have been on the show lately, Styles is game to sing songs by other performers. As the only One Direction member who has come back for a solo run, he's set a high bar for his ex-bandmates.

8. Elton John

Corden is a master at making celebrities feel comfortable, but his chummy rapport with Sir Elton John is on another level. It makes you wish these two would star in a buddy cop movie. Seriously, just have them wear those Lion King costumes from the video, and make them solve mysteries? It could be a BBC show.

7. Kelly Clarkson

Kelly Clarkson always delivers. The range of her voice makes her an ideal "Carpool" guest, someone who can show off with some impressive vocal pyrotechnics, and her unpretentious personality is a good mix with Corden's schlubby everyman persona. As she flies through the hits and even sings a lullaby, she looks totally unfazed. Even her husband showing up in the backseat for an impromptu date can't throw her off her game.

6. P!nk

If P!nk ever decides to ditch her lucrative career as a singer of inspirational pop anthems, she could make a good living as a carpool choreographer. The moves she teaches Corden during her appearance, including a dangerous looking head-whip, are some of the best in the history of the show. Similarly, her story about wanting to marry (and eventually meeting) Jon Bon Jovi is a perfect "Carpool" anecdote: dishy, personal, and music-related. Clearly, she still knows how to get the party started.  

5. Justin Bieber (first appearance)

There's a reason Bieber is the guest with the most appearances: he's got the best carpool dance moves. Whether he's singing classics like "Baby" or "Boyfriend," he has the dancing-while-seated choreography down. The swivel, the head-nod, and the classic point-out-the-window-to-the-beat maneuver all show up in this clip. Also, Justin Bieber saying "dope" when Corden pulls out a Rubik's cube is definitely the comedic high point of the whole series.

4. Paul McCartney

Older artists with deep catalogs often bring the best out of the trusty "Carpool" format, with the songs serving as prompts for nostalgic digressions and old stories, but this nearly sitcom-length segment, which was filmed in Liverpool, is especially poignant. The former Beatle takes Corden on a tour of his old haunts, including the bathroom with great acoustics in his parents' house where he used to work on songs as a teenager. Sir Paul singing along to "Penny Lane" while driving around Penny Lane is a total delight. The second half, which finds McCartney playing a surprise concert for unsuspecting customers at a pub, is less potentially tear-jerking, but still fun.

3. Stevie Wonder

The buddy-buddy vibe of these videos can get a little suffocating at times, so it's nice to see Stevie Wonder goof on Corden a bit as they sing classics like "Superstition" and "Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I'm Yours." Stevie makes up for his jabs by calling up Corden's wife and singing "I Just Called to Say I Love You." If you're the type of person who cries while watching viral talk-show videos, stay away!

2. Jennifer Hudson

The Oscar-winning Dreamgirls actress sings James Corden's burger order at a fast-food place. If that's not enough to get her near the top of this list, I don't know what is.

1. Adele

Come on, don't act surprised. You thought we'd put Iggy Azalea at the top? In some ways, Adele's career feels like it was building to this very cheery, rainy moment. Besides her killer voice, the appeal of Adele is rooted in the way she seems like she'd be fun to drive around and shoot the shit with. The thing about this video is that she's actually even more fun than you imagined, firing off self-deprecating jokes and singing along with every track Corden throws at her. The only sad part is realizing that, according to this interview with Late Late Show producer Ben Winston, there's a 54-minute cut of this floating around a hard drive somewhere. Release the tapes, Corden! America needs more Adele.

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Dan Jackson is a staff writer at Thrillist Entertainment, and apparently has strong opinions about "Carpool Karaoke." He's on Twitter: @danielvjackson.