Iam Tongi Leaves Luke Bryan In Tears With Emotional ‘American Idol’ Audition

18-year-old Iam Tongi brought Luke Bryan to tears with a heart-wrenching tribute to his late father on the season 21…


Lauren Jo Black

| Posted on

February 19, 2023

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Iam Tongi , Luke Bryan; Photos by ABC, American Idol

18-year-old Iam Tongi brought Luke Bryan to tears with a heart-wrenching tribute to his late father on the season 21 premiere of American Idol.

Fans got an exclusive first look at Tongi’s emotional audition thanks to Entertainment Tonight. (The full clip will debut on Sunday (Feb. 19) at 8/7c on ABC.) 

Ahead of Tongi’s performance, the aspiring singer tugged at the heartstrings of Idol judges Luke Bryan, Katy Perry and Lionel Richie as well as viewers nationwide with a story about how he got into music. 

Iam Tongi; Photo by ABC, American Idol
Iam Tongi; Photo by ABC, American Idol

He explained that his late father is who taught him everything he knows about music, to which Lionel Richie asked, “He’s the reason for all this?”

Sadly, Tongi revealed that his father is no longer with him.

“My dad passed away a couple months ago,” Tongi emotionally shared with the Idol judges ahead of his performance. As his emotions continued to overcome him, the contestant shared that his Idol audition is in honor of his late father.

Tongi auditioned with James Blunt’s 2019 hit “Monsters,” a tune Blunt wrote as a tribute to his father, who was diagnosed with Stage 4 Kidney Disease.

Strumming an acoustic guitar, Tongi belted out the lyrics to the Blunt tune and all three of the Idol judges became visibly moved by his heartfelt performance. Bryan was even seen wiping away tears from his eyes with a tissue during Tongi’s audition. 

Iam Tongi; Photo by ABC, American Idol
Iam Tongi; Photo by ABC, American Idol

“I’m not your son, you’re not my father / We’re just two grown men saying goodbye / No need to forgive, no need to forget / I know your mistakes and you know mine / And while you’re sleeping I’ll try to make you proud / So, daddy, won’t you just close your eyes? / Don’t be afraid, it’s my turn / To chase the monsters away,” Tongi sang on the tune’s chorus.

Following his tearful audition, Lionel Richie shared, “Young man, you take this into the world and you’re going to fracture some souls. Your dad is very proud.” 

Viewers will have to tune into Sunday evening’s American Idol premiere to see if Iam Tongi earns a Golden Ticket to Hollywood. 

Until then, fans can follow Iam Tongi on TikTok where he has raked in over 77,000 followers to date.  

Tongi has shared many country covers on his TikTok, including Zach Bryan’s “Something In The Orange,” Vince Gill’s “Look At Us,” Chris Stapleton’s “Tennessee Whiskey,” Brooks & Dunn’s “Neon Moon,” Jason Isbell’s “Cover Me Up,” Diamond Rio’s “One More Day With You,” Brad Paisley’s “Whiskey Lullaby,” among many others. 


Just practicing #somethingintheorange @Liam von Elbe saw your vid and started learning it toko 🤙🏾

♬ original sound – Iam Tongi

In addition to singing covers, Tongi released an original love song titled, “Dreams.” The song, which was written in honor of his sister’s wedding, can be found on YouTube. 

YouTube video

The season 21 premiere of American Idol airs on Sunday (Feb. 19) at 8/7c on ABC. The show will also stream on HULU.

This season of Idol promises to be a memorable one as it’s a celebration of the show turning 21 (in both years and seasons). Idol judges Luke Bryan, Katy Perry, and Lionel Richie return to find the next singing sensation in New Orleans, Las Vegas, and Nashville.  

American Idol airs on Sundays at 8/7c on ABC.


Iam Tongi received a Golden Ticket and will advance to Hollywood!

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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.