Iam Tongi: who is American Idol 2023 winner, what did they win - and James Blunt's Monsters meaning explained

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Iam Tongi won American Idol 2023 in an exciting finale that saw him perform Monsters alongside James Blunt

Iam Tongi won season 21 of American Idol in a dramatic and emotional live finale. The star will leave considerably richer than he started it when he auditioned in February.

Though the show has dropped in popularity, from a peak of 37 million watching the season six premiere to an all time low of fewer than 6 million watching this year’s opening episode, Tongi still managed to captivate viewers and judges alike.

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Singers Katy Perry, Luke Bryan, and Lionel Richie returned as judges and were blown away by the performer’s audition. Three months later Tongi won the show and will go on to release a studio album. 

Who is Iam Tongi?

Iam Tongi is an 18 year old singer and a high school student from Kahuku, Hawaii - he has Polynesian island and Irish heritage.

Iam Tongi won American Idol 2023Iam Tongi won American Idol 2023
Iam Tongi won American Idol 2023 | ABC

The singer blazed through the audition stage and then made it all the way to the final. In Sunday’s three-hour long finale, Tongi sang Making Memories of Us, before dueting to his audition song Monsters with James Blunt.

Tongi performed an original song, I'll Be Seeing You whilst playing the guitar before voting closed. When votes had been counted, Tongi was revealed as the winner, beating fellow finalists Megan Danielle and Colin Stough to be crowned the newest American Idol.

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What does Monsters by James Blunt mean?

Iam Tongi sang James Blunt’s song Monsters at his audition and dedicated it to his late father, Rodney, bringing the judges to tears. The song Monsters, written by Blunt, Amy Wadge and Jimmy Hogarth, features on Blunt’s 2019 album Once Upon a Mind.

It is a tribute to James’ father Charles who became ill when he was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease. The song was written when Charles was waiting for a transplant and was a touching song about James looking after his father when he was sick. Charles later received a transplant and is now in better health. 

In the American Idol finale, after being crowned the winner, Tongi joined Blunt on stage to perform a duet of Monsters.

What is the American Idol prize?

Since the first season, American Idol winners have taken home a $250,000 (£200,000) cash prize plus a record deal which often proves to be even more valuable.

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The prize money is awarded in two halves - the first half comes when they sign their record deal, and the second half when the album is completed. Several previous winners have gone onto release several albums, and many have earned around $1 million within a year of winning the show.

Tongi will also reportedly win a Disney Cruise Line vacation for himself and three guests. The runner-up does not win a cash prize, nor are they guaranteed a record deal.

Country singer Carrie Underwood is the most successful American Idol winner so far - she won the fourth season of the show and has gone on to release nine studio albums, win eight Grammy Awards, and amass a net worth of $140 (£112.6 million).

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