Iam Tongi Joins Forces With Oliver Steele For Ed Sheeran Cover On ‘American Idol’

Sheeran watched on as a guest judge.


Lauren Jo Black

| Posted on

May 7, 2023

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Oliver Steele, Iam Tongi; Photo by ABC/Eric McCandless

ABC’s American Idol returned on Sunday evening with the Top 8 and among the performances was a duet between standout contestants Iam Tongi and Oliver Steele. 

The pair previously performed as a duo dubbed “Kindred Spirits” during the Hollywood duets where they sang The Weeknd’s “Save Your Tears.” 

This time, they reunited to perform Ed Sheeran’s “Photograph.”

This Isn’t The First Time The Contestants Collaborated

Oliver Steele; Photo by ABC/Eric McCandless
Oliver Steele; Photo by ABC/Eric McCandless

Steele, who hails from Mount Juliet, Tennessee, and Tongi, who is from Kahuku, Hawaii, took the stage together along with their acoustic guitars to perform in front of Idol judge Luke Bryan and guest judges Sheeran and Alanis Morissette.  They were joined by a small orchestra.  

Sheeran was all smiles at the conclusion of their performance and cheered them on from the judges’ panel. 

Sheeran Approved

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

Within seconds, the Idol audience then chanted Iam’s name. 

Sheeran was the first to speak following their duet. 

“Just how well your voices complement each other. It was so beautiful to listen to like your vocal tones fit so well with each other. I know that both of you have like… I’m listening to it knowing that there’s a crazy power singing ability that’s in there, but just gentleness and soulfulness you’re bringing… I got emotional listening to that, it was good,” he said. 

Morisette then addressed the pair. “Iam and Oliver, I just know you’re coming from two completely different places and yet you have this really cohesive respective connection with each other. I was just really moved and hearing men be vulnerable is… be still my beating heart,” she admitted. 

Oliver Steele, Iam Tongi; Photo by ABC/Eric McCandless
Oliver Steele, Iam Tongi; Photo by ABC/Eric McCandless

Bryan praised the contestants’ “beautiful harmonies” and complimented the overall performance. 

“I feel like I know them as they perform and it’s so fun seeing them watching Ed watch them, but great job. Great arrangement guys. Really beautiful, really emotional and spiritual and I just thought y’all did a great job,” he said. 


Following their performance, host Ryan Seacrest asked Iam Tongi and Oliver Steele to talk about their friendship. 

“Day one, Hollywood, I’m up in the holding room singing this song called ‘Island Style’ and this man just comes over and just [joins me] with this amazing vibrato and harmonies and we just instantly connected and both of us were raised by our fathers in a world of music,” Steele explained. “Even way after Hollywood week like while my dad was in the hospital, this man was calling my dad and talking to him for like two hours at a time and he’s sitting back there and let me tell you it made my dad’s world for him to do that.”

Steele then turned to Tongi and shared, “I don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t know if I’ll go home or not, but if I do my money’s on your brother.” 

Later in the show, Tongi took the stage to perform a cover of Alanis Morissette’s “Guardian.” The emotional tribute earned praise from the judges. 

The Contestants Fate Was Revealed

It was also revealed that Tongi secured a spot in the Top 5. Steele, unfortunately, was cut from the competition. 

Ed Sheeran and Alanis Morissette are temporarily replacing Katy Perry and Lionel Richie while they are in England performing as part of the Coronation Celebration for King Charles III. 


“I can’t wait to guide you through this stage of the competition and career and yeah this is the first time I’ve done this on American Idol, I can’t wait to take the iconic American Idol stage,” Sheeran previously shared. “Mostly, I’m just looking forward to meeting all of you and talking through life and music and I hope you’re having a great time and I’ll see you very, very soon. Lots of love.”

“I am so excited to be mentoring and hearing your interpretations of my songs. I can’t wait to hear them and surprise I’m going to be guest judging with Luke as well. So I can’t wait to see you,” Morissette previously added.

Perry and Richie made a brief appearance during Idol with a video from Windsor Castle.

American Idol airs every Sunday and Monday at 8/7c via ABC.

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