The Reason Mariah Carey Agreed to be the First ‘Carpool Karaoke’ Singer on James Corden’s ‘Late Late Show’

It’s now a renowned and beloved staple in late night television history. Anyone and everyone has viewed and sang along with James Corden’s brainchild, Carpool Karaoke, on The Late Late Show, featuring Corden at the wheel driving around various mega-famous musicians. Though Corden was finally able to book none other than the legendary Mariah Carey as his very first passenger, it originally wasn’t easy finding anyone to get on board with the idea.

James Corden | Ray Tamarra/GC Images

Rejection, rejection, rejection

“If you imagine an artist, just think of any artist in the world, they said no to it. I mean, everyone,” Corden told Howard Stern on his SiriusXM radio show in 2016. “I’m talking, like, who’s the dudes who did ‘Cotton Eye Joe’? We were in those sorts of territories. … And they’re like, ‘I’m not doing that.'”

The idea started in England with George Michael

Corden told Stern that he first performed the bit on a Comic Relief special in England in 2011. The original idea was for his character to pick singer George Michael up from prison. The concept blossomed into Cordon sitting in a car with Michael singing old hits from Michael’s former group, Wham! “We couldn’t put our finger on why is this so joyful? There’s a joy in here. We couldn’t really work out why,” Corden said to Stern.

Mariah Carey’s on board, but …

Corden was able to arrange a meeting with Carey through her record label’s rep, where he pitched her the idea. “She was about to put some new dates on in Vegas,” Corden said, according to The Wrap. Thankfully, Carey turned out to be a fan of Michael. “I showed her a clip of me doing [the segment] with George Michael that I’ve done at home for Comic Relief … and she loved George Michael. Mariah Carey was like, ‘If it’s good enough for George, it’s good enough for me.’ And that was it.”

The episode wasn’t without a few glitches. When Carey showed up for the segment, she let Corden know she’d been up all night and wouldn’t be singing. “She came out and said, ‘Oh, I’m not singing today,’ and she went, ‘We’ll just drive around and have a chat,'” Corden told Stern with a laugh. “I went, ‘Oh, right. It’s just, we call it Carpool Karaoke, so without that…’ And then I thought, I’ve just gotta go. I’ve just gotta jump into it. Even if this bit is just me singing to Mariah Carey, it’s still on the show. It may not be the recurring bit that we hope it is, but it’s still probably on the show.”

Carey eventually relented, singing along with Corden to hits including “Always Be My Baby,” “Vision of Love,” and “Thirsty.” “To her credit, she got involved and it was wonderful,” Corden told Stern.

Carey even returned to the sketch to perform her holiday mega-hit “All I Want for Christmas,” which included an entire segment that cut to various guests of past Carpool Karaokes singing the song including Adele, Demi Lovato, Nick Jonas, Elton John, Selena Gomez, Lady Gaga, Chris Martin, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Gwen Stefani, according to Vanity Fair.

Carpool Karaoke became a cultural phenomenon, featuring music icons such as Paul McCartney, Steve Wonder, Jennifer Lopez, and Bruno Mars. The segment continues to be one of the most popular on Corden’s show.