James Corden is king of television for a whole bunch of reasons that anyone with a working internet connection doesn't need me to spell out. But one that lifts him head and shoulders above so many other presenters is his immense warmth. The charismatic Brit has one of the biggest hearts in entertainment and, as such, Corden's tribute to George Michael on The Late Late Show on Tuesday, Jan. 3, was something very special indeed.
The host inhabits the enviable position of being both a huge fan of Michael's music and someone who has actually met the late singer in person. As such, his speech about Michael managed to be both relatable, for anyone who's ever bopped around their bedroom to "Father Figure" on loop, and informative, relating how Carpool Karaoke came about thanks to a sketch Corden did with Michael.
But it's the host's delivery that really gets me. You can tell he's not feigning it for the cameras; even when he begins his speech, Corden is suddenly, improbably, speechless. While the rest of his story is startlingly warm and smart, his loss for words is so much more eloquent than anything that follows because it evokes so much of what I imagine many fans felt when they found out the tragic news of the singer's passing.
And I suspect the universal appeal of Corden's tribute to Michael doesn't stop there. When he started his speech by declaring "I feel like I've loved George Michael as long as I've loved music," you could feel something special was about to happen.
Corden's opening statement isn't a bombastic one. Michael's solo career was arguably launched by his 1987 album Faith — which dropped the year before I was born. Even if you're reading this and you're Corden's age, 38, you would have been listening to Michael's breakout album while you were still a child. It's no exaggeration to say that it feels like you've been listening to the singer pretty much forever or, at least, ever since your earliest years on this planet.
Perhaps the power of Corden's speech didn't lie simply in spelling out the importance of Michael's contribution to music, but in how it managed to pinpoint the emotional specifics of how music that means a lot to you can enrich your life as a listener:
Preach. Michael's music is often praised for its catchy melodies, for being a series of incredible earworms. But the emotional resonance of tracks like "Jesus To A Child" and "A Different Corner" suggests that we shouldn't forget one of Michael's most important talents: his power to move the listener.