Iam Tongi from Hawai’i wins 2023 American Idol
May 21, 2023, 6:30 PM HST
* Updated May 22, 6:35 AM
Iam Tongi became a household name during the past few weeks, starting with his heartfelt audition of “Monsters” by James Blunt on American Idol to honor his father who died.
On Sunday, the 18-year-old from Hawai’i will become even more famous after winning the national TV singing competition watched by millions.
Tongi faced off against fellow finalists Colin Stough, from Mississippi, and Megan Danielle, from Georgia, in front of a live audience and celebrity judges Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie.
According to news websites, Tongi is the most viewed “American Idol” audition of the season with 16 million views on YouTube.ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW AD
On Sunday in the live finale, Tongi sang Monsters again, this time as a duet with Blunt. Tongi’s performance was just as emotional, bringing the audience and the judges to tears.
Tongi also performed his new song “I’ll Be Seeing You,” dedicated to his father Rodney. The single is available on several platforms.
Earlier in the finale he performed a version of Keith Urban’s “Making Memories of Us,” which was a “full circle moment” for him, as his father used to dance and sing it with his mother. Chants from the crowd saying “IAM! IAM!” after his first performance alluded to the possibility of the young star’s success. Later in the show he sang, “Cool Down,” by Kolohe Kai and received a standing ovation, with Perry saying he “brings the culture to American Idol.”
American Idol also featured videos of the contestants’ homecomings that were filmed before the finale. A touching video of Tongi’s return to his home of Oahu showed him covered in leis, embraced by local high school football players, and a performance with artists such as Jack Johnson and Paula Fuga where they sang John Cruz’s “Island Style.”
Throughout the show there were guest performances by the judges and a variety of artists, such as TLC, Zachariah Smith, Ellie Goulding, REO Speedwagon’s Kevin Cronin, Jelly Roll, Lainey Wilson, Australian singer-songwriter Kylie Minogue, Keith Urban, Lauren Daigle, Jazmine Sullivan, Clay Aiken and Ruben Studdard.
The finale aired live in Hawai’i on Sunday at 2 p.m.