Hawaiian native, Iam Tongi, has been crowned American Idol’s 2023 winner. On Sunday night, Tongi earned the most fan votes, sealing his victory over finalists, Megan Danielle and Collin Stough.
Kicking off his audition with his rendition of James Blunt’s Monsters, Tongi captured the hearts of the judges and viewers from the outset. Consistent in his choice of song, and delivering highly emotional and personal performances, Tongi was seen as a frontrunner throughout the season. Judge and country superstar, Luke Bryan noted, during Tongi’s audition, “I cannot handle your heart breaking about your dad because my nephew lost his dad and he came to live with me and just seeing you missing your dad sucks. Gosh man, you’ve got a great voice. You did everything perfectly and I love you and want to see you have fun.” He also encouraged Tongi to have fun with the whole thing, as he pegged Tongi to be a shoe-in for the finale.
Tongi, 18, grew up in Kahuku, Oahu but moved to Seattle after his family could no longer afford to live in Hawaii. Months before his audition, his father passed away. Tongi channeled his emotions into his original song “I’ll be seeing you”, which he debuted at the American Idol finale. He also sang Keith Urban’s “Making Memories of Us”, and Kolohe Kai’s “Cool Down”.
Before Tongi was declared the winner, he was joined on stage by James Blunt to sing an encore of ‘Monsters’. The performance was emotionally charged, with Tongi himself having a hard time finishing the song. “Monsters”, which he performed in memory of his father. The song was originally written by James Blunt as a “eulogy” to his own father who battled kidney disease, but thankfully survived the ordeal.
After Tongi was announced the winner, fans took to social media to congratulate him. Some fans were upset that finalist Megan Danielle wasn’t chosen, with some fans even asserting that voting was rigged. However, many former American Idol finalists have gone on to have amazing careers despite not winning the show, the likes of which include: Adam Lambert, Chris Daughtry and Jennifer Hudson.