An 18-year-old Pacific Islander delivered a heartstring-tugging audition on ‘American Idol’, leaving the judges doing their best to hold back tears.
Iam Tongi grew up in Hawaii and has "Tongan/Samoan/Caucasian" heritage, according to his TikTok bio. He moved Lionel Richie, Katy Perry, and Luke Bryan with his voice but more so with his emotional story.
After telling the judges he was “priced out of paradise” and his family had to move to Seattle from Hawaii, Tongi also reveals that he recently lost his father - who inspired him to pursue music.
“My dad passed away a couple months ago,” he told the judges before his performance of James Blunt’s ‘Monsters’.
Blunt wrote ‘Monsters’ when his father was diagnosed with Stage 4 Kidney Disease, so the track and its lyrics obviously hit close to home for Tongi.
“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?” Tongi sang.
All the judges had extremely high praise for Tongi’s performance and commented on the emotional weight of it.
“Young man, you take this into the world and you’re going to fracture some souls,” Lionel Richie said. “I wasn’t worried whether you were going to make it through the song, I was worried whether we were going to make it through the song. Your dad is very proud.”
“What a fantastic song to pick,” said Katy Perry. “I feel like you could have written this song - you sang it, you delivered it and you’re making these grown men cry.”
Iam got through to the next stage of the show. You can view many of his covers and an original song on his YouTube channel and TikTok.