Iam Tongi wins the 21st season of “American Idol.” He is the first Hawaiian native to take the top spot. Photo courtesy of Eric McCandless/ABC
May 22 (UPI) — Hawaiian teen Iam Tongi was crowned the new American Idol on Sunday night. The 18-year-old singer beat Megan Danielle and Colin Stough for the top spot.
Danielle and Stough placed second and third.
Tongi performed his own song, “I’ll Be Seeing You,” and then sang “Don’t Let Go.”
He dedicated his audition performance of “Monsters” by James Blunt to his father, who died a few months before. He made judges Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie emotional during his audition, which went viral, with over 16 million views.
Tongi said his father, Rodney, wanted him to audition for American Idol and he did but didn’t make it through the first time. Rodney provided constructive feedback and supported his son’s efforts to make music. Although Tongi initially said he didn’t want to mention him during the auditions, it came out naturally when judges asked about his family.
“My dad, he wasn’t a perfect dude,” Tongi told The Kent Reporter. “He wasn’t like a saint, or whatever. But he was the best father that I know. And I want everyone to know that he’s a tough guy. He always told me the truth, [and] he always loved me. And I always loved him, too.”
Perry told People she knew from the beginning that Tongi was uniquely talented.
“The sound in the room when Iam comes on is undeniable. He’s an undeniable character. He’s just got this incredible magic. You almost can’t explain it. It’s an ‘it’ factor. It’s like you’re born to do this, and it’s undeniable.”
Tonga is Samoan, Irish and Tongan. He grew up in Kahuku, Hawaii until his father had a heart attack and could no longer work. Then his family moved to Seattle, where Tongan attended high school.
“Priced out of paradise,” Tongan told Richie about why his family moved.
During his ultimately successful run, Tongan performed “Father and Son,” by Cat Stevens, Sam Cooke’s “Bring it On Home to Me” and the ’60s classic “Sound of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel.
Just before his win, Tongi released his original single, “I’ll Be Seeing You.”