Re-Live Iam Tongi’s Unforgettable ‘American Idol’ Journey

Re-live Iam Tongi’s incredible run on ‘American Idol.’


Lauren Jo Black

| Posted on

May 21, 2023

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From the moment American Idol viewers first met Season 21 contestant Iam Tongi, it was clear that he possessed something special. 

His memorable audition, which served as a tribute to his late father, captivated viewers and even brought Idol Judge Luke Bryan to tears. Appearing in front of the judges with his guitar in hand, Tongi explained that his father taught him everything he knows about music. 

“He’s the reason for all this?” Lionel Richie questioned at the time. 

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

Tongi confirmed, “My dad passed away a couple of months ago.

He auditioned with James Blunt’s 2019 hit “Monsters,” and all three of the Idol judges became visibly moved by his heartfelt performance.  

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.” 

During the Hollywood Round, Tongi once again impressed with a performance of  “I Can’t Make You Love Me” by Bonnie Raitt. He also had to opportunity to share the stage with contestant Oliver Steele for a performance of  “Save Your Tears” by The Weeknd. His solo performance of “The Sound Of Silence” by Simon & Garfunkel officially earned him a spot in the Top 26.

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

The high school student had the opportunity to return to his native Hawaii for the Top 26 performance when he sang “Don’t Let Go” by Spawnbreezie. Once again, Tongi prevailed and advanced to the next round of the competition. 

As the season progressed, Tongi took the stage to deliver stand-out covers of “The Winner Takes It All” by ABBA, “Stuck On You” by Lionel Richie, and “Bring It One Home To Me by Sam Cooke.” 

Week after week, Tongi proved himself to be a front-runner. For his Top 10 performance, he sang “What A Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong. After this performance, Tongi was deemed a “phenomenon” and Katy Perry predicted that he could win the competition. 

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

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

After advancing to the Top 8, Tongi had the chance to work with guest judge Alanis Morissette. He performed her song “Guardian” in honor of his mother. 

Guest judge Ed Sheeran told him, “I just felt like you really connected with the song and that makes us as listeners connect with it. It was just really, really beautiful.”

During this round, he also joined forces with Oliver Steele to sing Ed Sheeran’s “Photograph.” 

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

As the competition narrowed down, Tongi enjoyed his first visit to Disneyland and later performed  “Lava” from the Disney musical short film of the same name.   

“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. 

He 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. 

Iam Tongi, Photo by Easton Schirra/ ABC, American Idol
Iam Tongi, Photo by Easton Schirra/ ABC, American Idol

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

Ahead of the finale, Iam Tongi released his debut single, “I’ll Be Seeing You.” The song is an emotional tribute to his late father and is available on streaming platforms now

Iam Tongi will face off against Megan Danielle and Colin Stough for the title of American Idol champion 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.

Re-live Iam Tongi’s American Idol journey below.

Iam Tongi’s American Idol Audition

“Monsters” by James Blunt

Hollywood Round

“I Can’t Make You Love Me” by Bonnie Raitt

Duet Round

“Save Your Tears” by The Weeknd with Oliver Steele

Solo Performance

“The Sound of Silence” by Simon & Garfunkel

Top 26 Hawaii Round

“Don’t Let Go” by Spawnbreezie

Top 20 Performance

“The Winner Takes It All” by ABBA

In Celebration

“Stuck on You” by Lionel Richie

Top 12 

“Bring It on Home to Me” by Sam Cooke 

Top 10 

“What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong 

Top 8

“Guardian” by Alanis Morissette

Top 5 (Disney Night)

“Lava” from Disney’s Lava

“Father and Son” from Disney’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.

Finale Performance

Coming Soon…

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