The Farr Side: Tongi win caps off talent-packed 'Idol' season

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Season 21 of TV’s “American Idol” came to an end Sunday evening with Iam Tongi coming out on top. The 18-yr old captured the grand finale prize and is our newest "American Idol" winner.

I’ve loved this show since the beginning, but I cannot recall a season with so many talented hopefuls in the mix. Season 5 comes the closest with its Top 10 finalists, some of which included Ace Young, Kellie Pickler, Chris Daughtry, Katharine McPhee, Bucky Covington and Taylor Hicks all coming away from the show as stars. Season 21 boasted an amazing Top 26.

For the past month, we’ve watched the Top 10 become the Top 7 and then the Top 5 until it was Colin Stough, Megan Danielle and Iam Tongi vying for the coveted "American Idol" title.

David T. Farr
David T. Farr

“American Idol” finale nights are always fun, as the entire Top 10 return to perform, many of whom get the chance to perform with big-name superstars. This finale was no exception. I was happy to see Marybeth Byrd, Tyson Venegas, Nutsa, Lucy Love, Haven Madison, Warren Peay, Zachariah Smith and We Ani return. You have to remember that with shows like this, the viewers can get pretty vested in their favorites.

I struggled this season with each revealing vote because everyone was so good! I feel like we are going to be hearing about them all for quite a while to come.

The first set of songs performed was from the Keith Urban songbook, in which Urban, a former judge, was back to mentor. Stough, Danielle and Tongi all did well, but it was Tongi who resonated with his version of “Making Memories of Us.” Tongi had said that it was a song his mother and father used to dance to in their living room.

I’ve always been a sucker for the back stories that many "Idol" contestants often share. Again, this season was no exception, unless you realize that all of them had amazing stories surrounding them. Stough, Danielle and Tongi pulled at the heartstrings numerous times this season. Tongi, I think, pulled the hardest. His father died shortly before auditions.

In between competitions, we were treated to intermittent performances through the night like We Ani with Jasmine Sullivan on “Bust Your Windows.” Sullivan is a sultry singer who holds back, whereas Ani could have broken every window in the parking lot.

Byrd soared with Lainey Wilson, while Steele killed it with Jellyroll. Danielle had her best moments singing with Lauren Daigle as did Smith performing with REO’s Kevin Cronin.

Stough held his own with judge Luke Bryan while Madison showcased her talents opposite Katy Perry.

However, it was Tongi who once again pulled on those heartstrings. His performance with James Blunt on Blunt’s heartfelt “Monster” may have secured the win for him.

Tongi had performed the song in his audition to be on the show where we all learned of his story then. To see him sing with the man who made the song was nothing but masterful.

Blunt ultimately covered for Tongi, amassed in tears.

Stough was eliminated, leaving the competition between Danielle and Tongi. After a few more partnered collaborations from the Top 10 finalists, it was time for the debut singles to be performed. Danielle performed “Diamonds,” a country-flavored gem and Tongi performed “I’ll Be Seeing You,” a slight diversion from the island sound we’ve come to know from him. Both songs were good, but not as good as I believe they should have been.

When all was said and done, Tongi pulled off the win. It was pretty surreal to witness.

The next morning, social media was abuzz with conspiracy theories and show assumptions. I feel like reminding people that the entire Top 10 was phenomenal and that any one of them could have won. Stop trying to ruin something good and just appreciate the many months these wonderful people entertained you.

— David T. Farr is a Journal correspondent. Email him at

This article originally appeared on Sturgis Journal: The Farr Side: Tongi win caps off talent-packed 'Idol' season