Hawaiian singer Iam Tongi took part in the auditions for American Idol and quickly went viral on social media after singing a heartfelt tribute to his late father, moving the judges and audiences to tears.
At the start of the audition, he shared how he left Hawaii because he was “priced out of paradise” and also to chase his dreams.
When asked about his family, he shared that his father inspired him to pursue music and that he passed away a few months ago.
Judge Lionel Richie said that he could tell Iam’s father meant a lot to him, as the young singer fought back his tears and struggled to speak.
Witnessing this, Richie told the young man to take his time, adding “you know when you love so deeply, you feel so deeply. And so what you’re giving us right now- the fact that you love that man so much, we’re there with you.”
Iam then said that he would be performing James Blunt’s Monsters, which he dedicated to his late father.
Moved judges to tears
He then started singing and judge Katy Perry was visibly impressed with his vocals, and as he continued singing, it was evident the judges were feeling moved and getting teary-eyed.
Lionel Richie started shaking as he sighed, trying to hold back his tears; while judge Luke Bryan could be seen with tears slowly filling up his eyes.
Katy Perry was also seen getting misty in the eyes as she bit down on her lips, as Luke Bryan wipe the tears away from his eyes with a tissue.
Iam was seen fighting back the tears as he sang, looking off camera as he sought assurance before he struggled to finish singing the song as he got choked up with emotion.
“You made these grown men cry”
On his performance, Lionel Richie said that he was not worried about whether Iam was going to finish the song, but rather, he was worried if the judges would be able to make it through the song.
Katy Perry said that he “delivered” the song, and “you made these grown men cry”, and the scene cuts to Luke Bryan wiping tears away from his face.
Luke Bryan highlighted how Iam is only 18 years old with a great voice, and that “missing your dad just sucks.”
Iam eventually got 3 yeses from the judges and made it through into the next round, and he said after the audition that the main reason why he did music was for his father.
He said that “He (Iam’s father) always wanted me to come to American Idol and sing, so I’m tryna make it proud of me,” as he broke down and cried.