Iam Tongi Proves He’s An ‘Idol’ Front-Runner With Phenomenal Performance Of ‘What A Wonderful World’

Luke Bryan said he “knocked it out of the park” with this performance.


Lauren Jo Black

| Posted on

May 2, 2023


12:23 pm

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Iam Tongi; Photo by ABC/Eric McCandless

ABC’s American Idol returned on Monday with the Judge’s Song Contest, challenging each of the remaining contestants to since a song submitted anonymously by the Idol judges. 

Iam Tongi (whose real name is William Tongi) once again delivered a standout performance when he took to the stage to perform a cover of Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World.”

Added A Touch Of Hawaii

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

With his ukulele in hand, Tongi effortlessly took center stage for the moving performance and was accompanied by a steel guitar. While smoke rose from the stage and lights shined behind him, the 18-year-old belted out the lyrics with an added touch of emotions. He added a bit of island flare to the performance as he sported a colorful Hawaiian shirt. 

The judges, Luke Bryan, Katy Perry, and Lionel Richie, watched on with amazement and even gave him a standing ovation. 

Following his time on stage, it was revealed that Luke Bryan selected the song. The country superstar said Iam Tongi “knocked it out of the park.”


YouTube video

Richie referred to Tongi as a “phenomenon” and Perry predicted that he could win the competition.   

“When you win ‘American Idol’ will you please just sing ‘More Than Words’ for me,” she begged. 

This incredible moment followed Sunday’s episode where the Hawaii native sang Sam Cooke’s “Bring it On Home To Me.” 

Earned A Spot In The Top 8

His stellar performance earned him a spot in the Top 8. 

“Thank you so much for voting me into the #top8 on #idol. This means so much to me and I appreciate you all so much,” he wrote on Instagram after Monday’s show. 

Tongi is following his dreams on Idol after the death of his father, who taught him everything he knows about music. His dad passed away a “couple months” before his audition and he went on to try out for the show in hopes to make his late father proud. 

“When Iam’s dad passed away,” Tongi’s mom shared during an earlier episode of Idol, “he didn’t wanna sing anymore. He kept saying that every time he sings, he could hear his dad backing up. After talking to him… it’s a beautiful thing that he could hear his dad.”

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

Iam Tongi auditioned for American Idol with James Blunt’s 2019 hit “Monsters.” His performance brought Bryan to tears and Richie told him, “Young man, you take this into the world and you’re going to fracture some souls. Your dad is very proud.” 

Throughout the season so far, Tongi has performed songs such as “I Can’t Make You Love Me” by Bonnie Raitt, “Don’t Let Go” by Spawnbreezie, “The Winner Takes It All” by ABBA, and more.  

On TikTok, Tongi has shared many country covers, 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. 

Luke Bryan, Katy Perry, Lionel Richie; Photo by ABC/Eric McCandless
Luke Bryan, Katy Perry, Lionel Richie; Photo by ABC/Eric McCandless

Tyson Venegas and Marybeth Byrd were eliminated during Monday night’s American Idol. In a surprising twist, the judges saved Oliver Steele. 

American Idol returns next week with Alanis Morisette and Ed Sheeran joining Luke Bryan as guest judges. The Top 8 will perform and the Top 5 will be revealed. 

An all-new episode of the competition airs coast-to-coast on Sunday, May 7 at 5 pm PT/8 pm ET on ABC. 

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Lauren Jo Black

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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.