Latter-day Saint Life

Latter-day Saint teen wins ‘American Idol’

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Screenshot from Instagram

Last night American Idol season 21 concluded with a historic winner: Latter-day Saint Iam Tongi became the youngest male ever to win the show.

Tongi, an 18-year-old high school student from Kahuku, Hawaii, won over the judges and audience from his very first audition. Since his audition was posted on YouTube three months ago, it has become the most viewed audition video of the season by a long shot, with more than 16 million video views. Tongi sang “Monsters” by James Blunt and dedicated the performance to his father, Rodney, who died a few months earlier.

“People thought I cry because I miss him, but it’s ’cause I hear him singing—I can hear his harmony,” Tongi told Idol producers. “I know he’s with me. Through my music he’ll always be with me.”

“You hit a nerve, and that’s what great storytellers do,” American Idol judge Katy Perry said. “That’s what great artists do, and your voice is just so magnificent.”

“I cannot handle your heart breaking about your dad,” judge Luke Bryan added. “Just seeing you missing your dad just sucks. Gosh, man, you just got a great voice. ... You just did everything perfect, and I love you.”

Back in April, Tongi shared a quote on social media from President Russell M. Nelson’s general conference talk, saying “the best is yet to come.” Then just a few weeks later, he shared a video on Facebook singing “I Need Thee Every Hour” in a hotel room with other Idol contestants. And a video posted a year ago shows Tongi singing with Eta Lauti in front of the Oakland California Temple as a dedication to her aunt who had passed away.

Throughout his Idol journey, Tongi sang a wide variety of songs including “The Sound of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel, “The Winner Takes It All” by ABBA, and “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong. On Disney Night he also paid homage to his Polynesian heritage and hometown with the ukelele ballad “Lava“ from the Disney Pixar short.

Prior to Tongi’s season 21 win, judge Katy Perry told People Magazine, “The sound in the room when Iam comes on is undeniable. He’s an undeniable character. He’s just kind of got this incredible magic. You almost can’t explain it. It's an it factor. It’s like [he is] born to do this, and it’s undeniable."

Toward the end of the season when Tongi visited his hometown on Oahu’s North Shore, he was also welcomed at the Polynesian Cultural Center with a parade and performances.

Tongi’s win comes with the release of his new single, “I’ll Be Seeing You,” with lyrics also in memory of his late father. The single has now hit number one on iTunes Charts.

You can watch more of Tongi’s performance on this season of American Idol in the YouTube players below.

▶ You may also like: Platinum-ticket American Idol contestant Kenedi Anderson records song for Church’s youth album

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