‘American Idol': 18-Year-Old Iam Tongi Brings Luke Bryan to Tears During Audition of a James Blunt Song [Watch]
American Idol has long introduced viewers to the stories of everyday people. Sometimes, those stories are heartbreaking. But music is the connection that drives folks to audition for the popular reality TV show. And often, the heartbreaking stories become inspiring for viewers watching across the country.
Iam Tongi, a teenager and singer-songwriter from Kahuku, Hawaii, brought coaches Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie to tears during the Season 21 premiere of Idol. He sang a rendition of James Blunt’s "Monsters," which he dedicated to his late father, who died last year after being diagnosed with Stage 4 Kidney Disease.
"My dad passed away a couple of months ago," Tongi emotionally divulged ahead of his performance.
Throwing his heart and soul into his cover of the Blunt tune, Tongi’s simple, yet emotional take had all of the judges fixated on every word.
Richie couldn't help but well up — he felt moved by the promising star’s cover and ability to show his talent, despite mourning the loss of a loved one. Bryan, too, connected with Tongi. During the hopeful's delivery, the country crooner could be seen dabbing his eyes with a tissue to wipe away tears he couldn't hide from the cameras.
“It’s alright, man. It’s alright,” Richie told Tongi afterward. “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 your delivery of your story was phenomenal. Young man, you take this into the world, and you’re going to fracture some souls."
“What a fantastic song to pick [and] I feel like you could’ve written this song," Perry noted. “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.”
Bryan then shared how he could relate to Tongi’s loss as the guardian to his nephew, Til Cheshire, 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,” Bryan said through tears. ”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.”
With his emotional debut, all the coaches unanimously voted Tongi through to Hollywood.
Tongi’s performance was all part of the Season 21 premiere of American Idol, which aired on Sunday (Feb. 19). American Idol airs Sundays at 8PM ET on ABC.
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