American Idol is well underway on ABC, and during the season premiere on Sunday, Feb. 19, Luke Bryan and fellow judges Lionel Richie and Katy Perry showed some emotions during the audition of an 18-year-old singer. Iam Tongi is from Oahu, Hawaii but now lives in Seattle, and he shared with the judges that he lost his father mere months ago. Talking about his dad in the audition brought tears to his eyes, but the judges gave him ample time to recover. He then began his performance, singing a rendition of James Blunt's "Monsters" and dedicating the tune to his late father.
With his guitar in hand, Tongi launched into the emotional song about a son saying his final goodbye to his dad. Although the subject was vulnerable for the singer, he kept it together for the performance, allowing his clear voice and storytelling to shine through. The song features many emotional lyrics, such as, "I'm not your son, you're not my father / We're just two grown men saying goodbye." In the final lines of the chorus, the son promises to take a turn chasing "the monsters away."
These emotional lyrics and Tongi's portrayal of them was not lost on the judges, and Bryan and Richie, especially, were brought to tears during the performance. The judges were very complimentary of Tongi's audition, with Katy Perry saying, "You sang it, you delivered it, and you're making these grown men cry."
"You hit a nerve," she continues, "and that's what great storytellers do. That's what great artists do, and your voice is just so magnificent."
Bryan specifically related the song, as his nephew, Til, lost his father (Bryan's brother-in-law) several years ago.
"Seeing you missing your dad just sucks," Bryan said. "Gosh, man, you just got a great voice. You've got a great voice. You just did everything perfect and I love you and I want to see you have fun in this whole thing."
Richie also chimed in on the audition, saying, "Young man, you take this into the world and you're going to fracture some souls."
In the end, the judges happily sent the grateful singer to Hollywood with a golden ticket.
American Idol season 21 airs on Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.
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