WATCH: ‘Idol’ Standout Iam Tongi Delivers Emotional Tribute To His Mother

Tongi’s performance brought guest judge Alanis Morissette to tears.


Lauren Jo Black

| Posted on

May 7, 2023


10:33 pm

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Iam Tongi; Photo Via YouTube, American Idol

Iam Tongi returned to the American Idol stage with a sweet Top 8 performance dedicated to his mother. 

Tongi chose to sing Alanis Morissette’s “Guardian” in honor of his mom. Morissette, who was serving as a guest judge for the episode, also took time to mentor the contestants.   

“This song was initially written about my own inner parent talking with all these parts in here and then the chorus was about my son. So kind of turning it around,” she said. 

Dedicated His Performance To His Mother

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

Morissette admitted she got emotional during Iam’s performance of the song. 

“Me listening to Iam sing it as though I was his mom brought me to tears because he has this presence of power and yet also has this beautiful vulnerability. If any of my children sang that song to me I would be a mess. I would love to hear you split it up into three parts. The very, very intimate, the middle and then that full-blown.”

The contestant was grateful for Morissette’s guidance and advice.  

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

“Running through the dynamics of the song, it was hard for me. I don’t really know how to go big, but she helped me a lot,” he said, adding “I really want to make Alanis proud, but I mostly want to make my mom proud because this song is about her to her.” 

“I think there’s a potential for Iam to have a really sweet moment here,” Morissette added prior to his performance.

As his mother and his siblings watched on from the crowd, Tongi delivered a moving performance of “Guardian.” 


YouTube video

At the conclusion of the performance, the live audience began chanting his name. 

The judges, including Luke Bryan, and guest judges Morissette and Ed Sheeran were completely enamored with Iam Tongi’s performance.   

“You took what we shared and brainstormed together to a whole other level and your level of empathy… first that you’re singing it to your mom, I mean, I can’t even. Just the empathy in your voice, you have this velvety voice and the planet I believe needs empathy now more than ever and you’re being this and you’re showing up here and showing the planet what it looks like to live and perform from empathy is such a huge gift,” Morissette shared. 

Sheeran praised Tongi’s ability to connect with the audience.  

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

“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,” he said. 

Bryan’s comments were short, simple, and to the point. “Great job man, you just always light the room up and it’s obvious when you do,” he said. 


Earlier in the show, Tongi joined Oliver Steele for a performance of Ed Sheeran’s “Photograph.” 

“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. 

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

See Their Duet

YouTube video

Iam Tongi ultimately earned a spot in the Top 5. 

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.

YouTube video

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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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 and her work being featured on 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.