‘American Idol’ judges give standing ovation to high schooler’s take on R&B classic
Iam Tongi has once again stunned the judges of "American Idol."
The high school student from Kahuku, Hawaii, performed an emotional rendition of Sam Cooke’s R&B classic “Bring It On Home To Me” during the show's April 30 episode, prompting all three judges — Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan — to give him a standing ovation.
Tongi performed without his acoustic guitar for the first time, opting instead to belt out the song's lovelorn lyrics to sound like a seasoned soul singer two or three times his age.
When Tongi finished singing Cooke's song, the sound of the crowd cheering his first name was so loud, Perry struggled to speak over them.
"I can’t even hear myself talk. This is what it’s like when Iam gets on the stage. This is just magic. This is what this is," Perry gushed, adding, "You are the one."
“I'll keep this quick: There is no way people can’t love you,” said Bryan, who noted how "brave" it was for Tongi to ditch his guitar for the performance.
As for Richie, he was close to speechless. "There’s nothing we can say, I can say,” he said. "The crowd is saying it all for us."
Tongi has been a strong performer all season, wowing the show's judges and fans with his stirring renditions of Simon & Garfunkel's "The Sounds of Silence" and Spawnbreezie’s “Don’t Let Go," among other songs.
Viewers learned early on from the singer's mom that Tongi's father had become ill in recent years and realized that “his days were limited.”
“A few months before he passed away, we started recording a lot more videos, which is something Iam turns to a lot and plays while he sleeps,” Tongi's mom said, as videos from late 2020 of Tongi singing with his father were shown.
“When Iam’s dad passed away, he didn’t want to sing anymore," Tongi's mom revealed. "He kept saying that every time he sings, he can hear his dad back him up."
But the mom said had a conversation with her son, sharing that she found it "beautiful" that he could still hear his dad sing with him. "He has come so far and I'm so proud of him," she said. "And I know his dad is super proud of him."
The episode found the show’s Top 12 contestants performing iconic songs by members of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, an accolade that Richie holds. All of the contestants were mentored by pop star Adam Lambert, an “Idol” runner-up in Season 8.
This article was originally published on TODAY.com