Iam Tongi Deemed A ‘Superstar’ Following Back-To-Back ‘American Idol’ Performances

Katy Perry said Iam stands for “I AM the next American Idol.” 

By

Lauren Jo Black

| Posted on

May 15, 2023

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Iam Tongi; Phoot by ABC/Eric McCandless

Iam Tongi was deemed a “superstar” following his two performances on American Idol’s Disney Night on Sunday evening (May 14). 

Ahead of his performances, Tongi had the chance to visit Disneyland for the first time ever. 

“This is my first time at Disneyland and I love it. It’s so fun. We’re just having the time of our lives out here,” he shared. “Attractions are amazing and brilliant. It was funny to see everyone dancing. Disneyland is the happiest place on earth!” 

First Visit To Disneyland

Iam Tongi; Photo by Disney/Kent Phillips
Iam Tongi; Photo by Disney/Kent Phillips

Actress Sofia Carson, who appeared in Austin & Ally on the Disney Channel, was on hand to offer Tongi advice.  

“I’m super excited that Sofia’s our mentor because she’s such a great artist. It’s crazy because I’ve been watching her all my life, you know on Disney channel and stuff,” Tongi said. 

Carson gushed over the opportunity to work with Tongi. 

“I have to tell you I’m a fan. You sing and it’s like you lived a million lifetimes,” she told him. 

Iam Tongi, Sofia Carson; Photo by ABC/Eric McCandless
Iam Tongi, Sofia Carson; Photo by ABC/Eric McCandless

A Tribute To His Home

The contestant then took a moment to reveal plans to sing “Lava” from the musical short film of the same name. 

“The reason why I love that song is because it takes me to Hawaii and to me it’s really important for me to represent where I’m from and make people proud,” Tongi explained. 

“It’s the beauty of being an artist is connecting with people and they connected with him. It was such a beautiful moment,” Sofia shared. “The lyrics keep them in your heart ‘I have a dream, I hope will come true.’ It’s just so beautiful. It’s so precious.” 

For his performance, Tongi gave a nod to his native Hawaii, sporting a colorful shirt and a lei. While strumming a ukulele, Tongi allowed his effortless vocals to shine. He earned a standing ovation. 

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“Listen Iam, a superhero mom once said ‘your identity is your most valuable possession’ and this is so true for you. You know exactly who you are and honey that is a superstar,” Katy Perry applauded. 

“Yeah, I mean, authenticity, you are so authentic to what you are and like Katy said you don’t have to do a lot… you don’t have to work hard to go be fake,” Luke Bryan pointed out. “You just come out and have your thing and people just gravitate… I’ve never seen a room like up like you make a room light up and it’s very special.”

Lionel Richie also praised Iam Tongi and his storytelling abilities.  

“When we first met you who knew that this phenomenon was going to happen, but let me just say this to you. I consider you a master storyteller, you understand me? You don’t have to hit notes, you just have to tell the story, but I want to let you know something right now. Your dreams have come true,” he said.

During Sunday’s show, Tongi also performed “Father and Son” by Cat Stevens from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Although it was Mother’s Day, Tongi paid tribute to his late father with his second performance. 

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Following another memorable performance from the Hawaii native, Perry told him, Iam stands for “I AM the next American Idol.” 

Paid Tribute To His Late Father

This isn’t the first time Iam has honored his father. During his audition, he brought the judges to tears with a moving rendition of James Blunt’s 2019 hit “Monsters.” 

The emotional performance earned Tongi a ticket to Hollywood and served as the start of his incredible American Idol journey. 

Iam Tongi; Photo by ABC/Eric McCandless
Iam Tongi; Photo by ABC/Eric McCandless

Ultimately, Iam Tongi’s performances earned him a spot in the Top 3 alongside Megan Danielle and Colin Stough. 

Each of the final contestants will release their debut singles on Friday, May 19.

Finale To Air Next Sunday

They will face off for the title of American Idol during the three-hour season finale of American Idol on Sunday, May 21 at 8 pm ET. 

Live from Hollywood, the finale will feature performances by the judges, Luke Bryan, Katy Perry, and Lionel Richie, as well as guest performers Clay Aiken and Ruben Studdard, Ellie Goulding, James Blunt, Jazmine Sullivan, Jelly Roll, Keith Urban (who is also mentoring Top 3), Kevin Cronin from REO Speedwagon, Kylie Minogue, Lainey Wilson, Lauren Daigle, Pitbull, and TLC.

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Lauren Jo Black

Written by

Lauren Jo Black

Lauren Jo Black, a University of Central Florida graduate, has immersed herself in the world of country music for over 15 years. In 2008, she co-founded CountryMusicIsLove, eventually selling it to a major record label in 2015. Following the rebranding of the website to Sounds Like Nashville, Black served as Editor-in-Chief for two and a half years. Currently, she assumes the role of Editor-in-Chief at Country Now and oversees Country Now’s content and digital footprint. Her extensive experience also encompasses her previous role as a Country Music Expert Writer for Answers.com and her work being featured on Forbes.com. She’s been spotlighted among Country Aircheck’s Women of Influence and received the 2012 Rising Star Award from the University of Central Florida. Black also spent time in front of the camera as host of Country Now Live, which brought live music directly to fans in 2021 when the majority of concerts were halted due to the pandemic. During this time, she hosted 24 weeks of live concerts via Country Now Live on Twitch with special guests such as Lady A, Dierks Bentley, Jordan Davis, Brett Young, and Jon Pardi. Over the course of her career, she has had the privilege of conducting interviews with some of the industry’s most prominent stars, including Reba McEntire, Blake Shelton, Luke Combs, Carrie Underwood, Luke Bryan, Miranda Lambert, Lainey Wilson, and many others. Lauren Jo Black is a longtime member of the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music.