Image via YouTube
What can I say about James Corden? For the longest time, I didn't know who he was, and now I wish I had never found out. He'll be replacing LL Cool J as the host of the Grammys this weekend and you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone worse.
James Corden is the guy behind, at least according to my Facebook feed, the very popular Carpool Karaoke bit. But imagine my surprise when I learned Carpool Karaoke was not a one-off internet video, but the cornerstone of his very own TV program, The Late Late Show. "Carpool Karaoke" is not good enough to a signature sketch; it isn't good, period. It's the lowest common denominator of comedic sketches. You put famous people in cars with a corny, over-eager British guy who can sort of sing and you have them sing songs together and film it with a GoPro. For the life of me, I have never been able to understand why this is a thing that has caught fire with American TV audiences. Because the thing is, most non-James Corden British people you ask don't even like James Corden. When his name came up in our staff's online chatroom, Noisey UK editor-in-chief Tshepo Mokoena said that we Americans "can have him." I don't speak for everyone, but we don't want him.
Part of the problem is that Americans are easily duped by a posh-sounding accent, because it gives the illusion of charm and politeness. Compared to the Queen's English, the mush-mouthed American version of the tongue sounds like it's spoken through a vuvuzela. It's all loud noises and sharp vowels. So anything spoken in the posh British dialect sounds smart and savvy. In the case of Carpool Karaoke, this serves to obscure the fact that it's actually just a guy in a car!
Americans also love celebrities, and they love anything that seems regular and folksy. So "Carpool Karaoke?" It's perfect! It takes celebrities (usually pop stars with widely-known radio hits like Bruno Mars or Mariah Carey or Justin Bieber), puts them in an environment that seems real, despite having been pre-taped months in advance, and packages it to seem like some friends spontaneously hanging out, as if a portly Englishman in a Prius really came across a wigged-out Sia walking down a residential street in LA. For some reason, people connect to that. Hey! I sing in my car too! People think. Me singing badly on my commute to 90s Billboard hits is cool! It's not and you look dumb. This works on TV because the real American dream is being on TV doing whatever innocuous thing you do in your spare time. So people see "Carpool Karaoke" and thing, that could be me, which is exactly the desired effect. This cloying, corny gag gets them every time.
I used to willfully ignore Carpool Karaoke, but I have forced myself to watch several of them because the devil you know is better than the devil you don't, and I want to understand why people go gaga for these spots. I still don't. But I will admit that there have been two and only two good Carpool Karaokes: the one with Adele and the one with Michelle Obama. As for the rest of the lot, there is no justifiable reason for their existence. I do not want to hear strangers sing unless they're literally Adele, or we're drunk at literal karaoke. Even the latter is sometimes painful, but that's why those types of events are usually soaked in beer.
There have been more than two dozen Carpool Karaoke now, but how many Carpool Karaokes can there possibly be? How many does the world need? There is a finite number of good singers alive today. A smaller number of those are appealing enough to put on a late night show, but then again there are about 260 weeknights in a year, and the Late Late Show airs on most of those nights, and it's apparently been doing bonkers numbers since the outset, and much of that popularity is due to the viral appeal of bits like Carpool Karaoke, so I'm not confident there is any end in sight. James Corden isn't one of them, and yet he has been in the driver's seat of every Carpool Karaoke with the same shit-eating grin every time. How can we make this stop?
Now because of Corden's appeal, he's landed the Grammys hosting gig, which means this is the beginning ad nauseam James Corden Content. Hosting an award show cements you as a permanent celebrity in this country, who can be called upon at any time to take on various tasks. Award show hosts are like the famous people's national guard. I'm also fairly confident James Corden will bring his most famous bit to that Grammys in some terrible mid-show sketch. It will likely be annoying and involve a cavalcade of artists, conveniently at his disposal in the Grammys audience. I recently learned that there is no alcohol served at the Grammys, and yet James Corden drives me to drink. But none of this matters now, because we're now stuck with this British export and his perma-shit-eating grin.
Leslie Horn is Noisey's Managing Editor. She prefers her karaoke drunk and in a bar. You can follow her on Twitter.