Give it up for Darius Rucker! The music superstar brought some extra country flavor to the ‘American Idol’ finale, recruiting finalist Caleb Lee Hutchinson for a boot scootin’ rendition of his hit, ‘Wagon Wheel.’
In between Darius Rucker, 52, and Luke Bryan, 41, performing, are they going to change the name to Americana Idol? Probably not, but Darius certainly brought that country vibe to the Idol finale on May 21. While Caleb Lee Hutchinson, 19, Gabby Barrett, 18, and Maddie Poppe, 20, awaited the fate of the voting to see who would take home the season 16 crown, Darius decided to bust out another one of his growing list of country music hits. With Caleb joining Darius on the stage, the two got the audience — even Luke! — dancing in their seats with the bouncy (and admittedly catchy) “Wagon Wheel.” Yee-haw!
“Y’all know this is going to be a good time!!” Darius tweeted when announcing his involvement in the finale. This marks the second time that the former Hootie and the Blowfish singer has performed for American Idol audiences. In 2014, Darius played the title track from his 2013 album True Believers in the season finale. He also performed his song “Alright” with contestants Dexter Roberts, 26, and CJ Harris, 27. Caleb Johnson, 27, would go on to beat Jena Irene, 21, for the Season 13 crown.
With three finalists who seemed destined for country music radio, having Darius on the Idol finale was both a way to help solidify the winner’s legitimacy in the country world and to help add some diversity to the genre. “When I first came into country music, I said, I can put up with anything, because whatever happens to me, Charley Pride went through things that were 10 times worse than I will ever encounter,” he told the Dallas Observer in a well-thought out profile.
“There was a feeling that after [Tiger Woods] there would be more African-Americans in golf, but it’s still just Tiger,” Darius added. “After Charley, there was the same feeling in country music. But I look at it now, and I think, are there going to be more guys and gals who are going to get a shot like I have?”
Perhaps the winner of next season’s American Idol will be a kid who decided to pick up an acoustic guitar after seeing Darius on TV? “I’m waiting for another African-American to break through in country and have a big thing. I’ve never thought that it would change overnight — look, I’ve been here eight years, and it hasn’t changed in a big way. But an African-American singer who sends a demo CD to a label now might get a listen, rather than it being tossed in the trash.”