Even in victory, Iam Tongi can’t escape accusations that “American Idol” rigged the show in his favor.
But Tongi, an 18-year-old from Hawaii, has taken the vote-rigging accusations in stride, telling The Daily Mail that he’s not offended by comments questioning the legitimacy of his victory.
“A lot of people are like, ‘Colin Stough was robbed,’ or whatever,” he told the outlet for a story published May 25. “And I just love it.”
He continued: “Everyone gets their own opinion. Everyone gets to think what they want. So, it’s fine.”
On May 21, the Season 21 finale took place with Tongi joining Colin Stough and Megan Danielle on stage as the three remaining finalists awaiting America’s vote. With Stough dropping out first, it was Tongi who garnered the most votes and secured the title of the next American Idol.
In the days since his win, fans have accused the show of rigging the voting so that Tongi would win the season. His audition, in which he discussed his father’s December 2021 death from kidney disease, became the most-viewed video on the show’s YouTube page. Throughout the season, the effect of Tongi’s father’s death months before his son’s audition, was a recurring theme as Tongi continued to advance on the show.
Iam Tongi’s Late Father Prepared Him for This Situation
Tongi told The Daily Mail that his response to the backlash comes from what his late father, Rodney, expressed to him. He said he knew that his style of music wasn’t going to be appreciated by the masses, a lesson he said he learned from his dad.
“My dad always told me that your music’s not meant for everyone,” Tongi said. “There’s going to be people that are not going to like it and that’s OK, that’s normal.”
Heading into the season 21 finale, Tongi, a genre-crossing interpreter of both popular music and Hawaiian roots music, was up against Stough or Danielle, both of whom fit the country music genre. The show’s previous two winners, Noah Thompson and Chayce Beckham, were both country vocalists, as was Season 17 winner Laine Hardy.
“His win, punctuated by local concerts and school celebrations, is especially rare, considering that country singers typically dominate ‘Idol’ and other reality singing competition shows,” The Washington Post’s Samantha Chery wrote in a story published May 23.
Iam Tongi Made the Media Rounds After His ‘Idol’ Win
Like all “American Idol” winners do, Tongi has been enjoying the media circuit following his victory on May 21. He stepped into the “Good Morning America” studios on May 21 along with Danielle, the show’s runner-up.
He was asked about his performance of “Monsters” with James Blunt, the same song he went with during his audition. He called it a “crazy” moment and that he told himself he wasn’t going to cry but he couldn’t hold back the tears. When asked about the impact his music has had on viewers, he said he appreciates knowing that he can connect with the fans.
“Knowing that I have that impact on people, I say it a lot, it’s just a crazy feeling just to really connect with people in a way,” he said on the morning show. “And to know there are people out there struggling like me. … It’s good to know I’m not alone.”