Iam Tongi pursued music because it was his favorite way of bonding with his late father.
In fact, his YouTube channel features more than a half dozen videos of him covering songs with his dad.
One of those, a cover of Islands in the Stream, has more than 1.2 million views.
Rodney Guy Tongi died in December 2022. But he’s smiling tonight.
Iam just became the 21st winner of American Idol, besting Colin Stough and Megan Danielle in the show’s three-hour season finale.
Iam’s Idol run began with a song dedicated to his father, James Blunt’s “Monsters.”
It’s a song introduced to Iam by his uncle Manatau, the relative who accompanied him to his American Idol audition.
When he first heard the song, Iam said he liked it, but didn’t really “relate to it.”
Then his dad went to the hospital with kidney failure. He heard the song again. “Man, it just hit me,” he recalled in an interview with The Coconet TV.
This time, not only did he learn it, he made sure his dad heard his rendition before passing away.
At his Idol audition, Iam’s emotional rendition of “Monsters” — performed while playing a guitar given him by his dad — made a more immediate connection.
It had Idol judges Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan in tears.
And when it aired, fans reacted too. The YouTube video has been played 16 million times, far more than any other American Idol performance from Season 21.
That made Iam an early front-runner on the show. And he continued the momentum with memorable performance of “Sound of Silence,” “Stuck on You” and “Bring It on Home to Me.”
But in spite of his dominance in terms of YouTube views and the wild reaction he got whenever he stepped on the Idol stage, Sunday’s show wasn’t without suspence.
Iam wound up in a two-man showdown with Colin Stough, who had comes on strong in recent weeks. He’s also a country singer.
And anyone who’s watched Idol for any length of time is well aware of voters’ preference for country guys who play guitar.
But Iam prevailed. And, fittingly, it came complete with a full-circle moment.
Iam got to perform “Monsters” with James Blunt during Sunday’s finale.
And he got to sing his newly released new song, “I’ll Be Seeing You.”
That’s Iam’s official American Idol winner’s single. It landed Friday and soared up the Apple Music charts, hitting number one on the rock chart and — even more impressively — reaching number 6 on the Top 200.
It’s also dedicated to his father, Rodney. Just listen to the lyrics, and you’ll understand.