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Hawaiian teen brings ‘American Idol’ judges to tears with emotional ‘Monsters’ rendition

Iam Tongi, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan
via American Idol

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    An 18-year-old high school student from Hawaii brought the “American Idol” judges to tears during the show’s Season 21 premiere on Sunday.

    Kahuku native Iam Tongi performed a captivating rendition of James Blunt’s “Monsters” that left both Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan wiping away tears by the end.

    Tongi dedicated the song to his late father, Rodney, who passed away just a few months prior after being diagnosed with stage 4 kidney disease.

    Tongi’s talent shone through, despite the heartbreaking circumstances surrounding his performance.

    Deeply moved by Tongi’s delivery, Richie highlighted its impact on the judges: 

    I was not worried about whether you were going to make it through the song. I was worried about whether we were going to make it through the song. Your daddy’s very proud … Let me just tell you something. The story is one thing. But the delivery of your story was phenomenal. Young man, you take this into the world, and you’re going to fracture some souls.

    Meanwhile, Bryan said he could relate to Tongi’s loss as the guardian of his nephew, who also lost a father. 

    I cannot handle your heartbreaking about your dad because my nephew lost his dad, and he came to live with me … and to see you missing your dad just sucks. And gosh, man, you got a great voice, you got a great voice. You just did everything perfectly, and I love ya. I want to see you have fun in this whole thing, man. It’s just awesome. It’s awesome what you just did to me, and you’re 18 years old.

    Katy Perry was equally impressed and praised the young contestant’s delivery of the song.

    What a fantastic song to pick [and] I feel like you could’ve written this song. I mean, you sang it. You delivered it, and you’re making these grown men cry. You hit a nerve, and that’s what great storytellers do. That’s what great artists do, and your voice is just so magnificent.

    All three judges unanimously voted Tongi through to Hollywood for the next round.

    Commenters on the video of his performance on the “American Idol” YouTube channel expressed admiration for the contestant’s voice and talent, while others shared similar experiences.

    “Thanks for sharing your gift with us and sharing this song Iam,” a commenter wrote. “In 2020, the hardest most painful words I ever had to say to my father, suffering from cancer, ‘Dad, you can rest now.’ The next morning he passed. Here’s to all the fathers that ‘chased the monsters away.'”

    “I lost my father a few months back, and my cousin who was basically my brother a few days ago,” shared another. “As a man, it’s hard to let yourself break down, but not being able to say goodbye to those you love is a pain you won’t forget. I will always regret not being able to see them off. Listening to this brought all those emotions to the surface. Hug and tell them you love them while you can. Trust me you never know when it might be there time to go.”
    “I instantly started sobbing uncontrollably as soon as he started singing,” another user wrote. “My husband who lost his father a year ago was standing in front of the tv in tears he couldn’t even sit down. The only sound that filled our living room was this man’s beautiful voice and our sniffles. Truly captivated us and the room we were in through the tv. That’s insanely powerful. The gift you have is indescribable.”

    His Instagram (@wtongi) and TikTok (@wtongi) accounts, in which he shares both covers and original songs, have now amassed over 300,000 followers combined.


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    A post shared by William Tongi (@wtongi)


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    A post shared by William Tongi (@wtongi)

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