Jelly Roll Tearfully Reacts To ‘American Idol’ Finalist Iam Tongi: “He Starts Singing And It’s Angelic”

“I’ve already publicly put the word out to whoever has the contractual rights to him. I want in,” Jelly Roll said.


Melinda Lorge


Posted on May 18, 2023

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Jelly Roll, Iam Tongi; Photo Courtesy of Joe Rogan Podcast/American Idol

Music has a tendency to move people in ways they never would have imagined. And sometimes an artist comes along and sings a song that stops people in their tracks.

That’s what many people believe Top 3 Season 21 American Idol finalist Iam Tongi did when he auditioned for the show. Standing in front of judges, Katy Perry, Luke Bryan, and Lionel Richie, Tongi made the celebrity cast tear up with his powerful rendition of James Blunt’s “Monsters.”

But, what made his representation of the song even more tear-jerking is that he dedicated it to his father, Rodney, who passed away just months before his audition. The 18-year-old Seattle transplant, originally from Kahuku (a town on O’ahu), shared his story with the judges telling them he was “Priced out of paradise.”

“My dad passed away, like, a couple of months ago. My dad [got me into music]. He taught me when I was very young,” he added.

Watch Iam Tongi’s American Idol Audition Below

YouTube video

With that, Tongi busted out the song on his instrument, sending silence in the room as judges focused on every word.

I’m not your son, you’re not my father / We’re just two grown men saying goodbye / No need to forgive, no need to forget / I know your mistakes and you know mine / And while you’re sleeping I’ll try to make you proud / So, daddy, won’t you just close your eyes? / Don’t be afraid, it’s my turn / To chase the monsters away,” he sang as Richie and Bryan wiped tears away from their eyes.

Iam Tongi; Photo Courtesy of ABC/American Idol
Iam Tongi; Photo Courtesy of ABC/American Idol

As it turns out, Iam Tongi’s viral audition is still touching hearts across the country. In fact, it has recently brought tears to successful podcast host Joe Rogan and rapper turned country singer Jelly Roll’s eyes.

Jelly Roll Reacts To Iam Tongi’s American Idol Audition

While appearing on a recent episode of the Joe Rogan Experience, Jelly Roll went into detail sharing his initial reaction to Tongi’s audition. He also talked about how he related to the potential star and his emotional story about his father.

“He did this James Blunt cover. I lost my father and he lost his recently. And his father gave him a guitar…. He’s an 18-year-old kid. But he looks like the most Hawaiian kid ever. He’s like the most gentle-faced, big dude with a Hawaiian shirt and flip-flops. And he’s playing a parlor guitar. It’s not a ukulele, but it’s not a big guitar. And he’s my size. I’m watching and I’m hearing his story. And he’s got a deep Hawaiian voice too. He is like, ‘Oh, thank you.’ Like I have a Simone security guard named Maui that talks like that. He’s like, ‘Oh, thank you.’ And then he starts singing and it’s angelic.”


@Iam Tongi check this out! @Jelly Roll was talking about you on the Joe Rogan podcast! You made it kid!! Aloha

♬ original sound – Marissa

Joe Rogan And Jelly Roll Broke Down In Tears

At that moment, Rogan re-played the clip of Tongi’s audition to see if he would be able to get through it, and while intently revisiting the audition, neither he nor Jelly Roll could hold back their tears.

“I’ve already publicly put the word out to whoever has the contractual rights to him. I want in,” Jelly Roll said afterward. “It takes you to a place. That’s the power of music. And you could hear the little times where there were tears in his throat. Like that distinct sound of fuc**** them tears and that throat.”

“Losing my father was probably the hardest thing I ever went through as an adult,” he added. “So hearing this man, music will meet you where you are, man. Yeah. Music will meet you where you are. Dude.”

“That’s Authentic”

“That’s authentic, man. You just can’t fake that. There’s no faking that. Holy sh**. Oh my God. It tells a story. It takes you to a place. And it’s coming from him,” Rogan added while wiping his eyes with his sleeve.

“That’s also shows you another person in a way that’s like, how are you going to see that guy in three minutes? You see him in that song? Because you see a person with a beautiful voice and a, I don’t care how crazy they are at one, if they’re capable of that, we know there’s some good in you. That’s like whatever you are. And if you can make a song that makes everyone happy, they will look past so much. Yeah. They’ll look past so much,” he added.

YouTube video

Tongi is currently in the American Idol Season 21 Top 3, facing off against Megan Danielle and Colin Stough. And, even if he doesn’t make it all the way, there’s no question he has grown an incredible fan base with his big heart and natural talent.

Jelly Roll is set to take the stage during the American Idol finale. He will be a part of a star-studded guest cast that includes Keith Urban, Lainey Wilson, Ellie Goulding, James Blunt, Jazmine Sullivan, REO Speedwagon’s Kevin Cronin, Kylie Minogue, Lauren Daigle, Pitbull, TLC, Clay Aiken, and Ruben Studdard.

The American Idol Season 21 finale airs Sunday (May 21) at 8 PM ET on ABC.

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