Aloha! Iam Tongi, the charming Hawaiian crooner, took home the 21st crown on “American Idol” Sunday night.
He drew more votes than 21-year-old Douglasville Christian performer Megan Danielle, who came in second, and 18-year-old Mississippi country singer Colin Stough, who finished third.
Danielle is the fifth Georgian to finish second on “Idol” after Diana DeGarmo (season 3), Lauren Alaina (season 10), Caleb Lee Hutchinson (season 16) and Willie Spence (season 19). Phillip Phillips is the lone winner from the state — from season 11.
Tongi, 18, now lives in Seattle because his family was “priced out of paradise,” as he told the “Idol” judges during his initial audition. His father died just a couple of months before he auditioned for the show last year.
He drew by far more Facebook views and social media likes than any of his rivals in recent weeks. His broad-based popularity made his win seem preordained.
Year in and year out, the South has shown its power on “Idol.” This year was no different with Danielle and Stough. (Fifth-place finisher Zachariah Smith is also from Mississippi.)
Danielle reached the top three courtesy of a uniquely raspy voice, her switch to Christian music from her time on “The Voice” in 2020 and a burgeoning confidence, fueled by her grandfather who died recently. “Isn’t it wonderful you start out your life with your plan and you end up on the ‘American Idol’ stage with God’s plan,” Richie told her during the finale after she sang “Faithfully.”
During the hometown visit for Danielle last Tuesday, the producers showed the restaurant she had worked at, a concert at her alma mater Douglas County High School, the Senoia Raceway where family members raced, a parade through downtown Douglasville and a visit to her grandpa’s grave.
The other contestants lightly made fun of Danielle’s predilection to being Southern polite, always saying, “Yes, m’aam’ or “Yes, sir.” And whenever a camera was pointed at her, she likes to stick her tongue out.
But the power of Tongi was hard to deny. “You bring the culture to ‘American Idol,’” judge Katy Perry said.
About 61% of readers polled by MJ’s Big Blog, which tracks “Idol,” believed before the finale that Tongi would win but only 47% said he should win. Only 16% thought Danielle would win but 30% said she should win.
Near the end of the finale, producers brought back a heavy dose of “Idol” nostalgia by having season 2 winner Ruben Studdard and runner-up Clay Aiken duet “The Impossible Dream,” then brought out Tongi and Danielle to sing with them. (Tongi was not alive alive when Studdard and AIken duked it out before a whopping 38 million viewers in 2003 while Danielle was an infant.)
In 2003, when people voted only by phone, 24 million votes were logged. This year, when people could vote up to 30 times via text, app and website, the total was 17-plus million.
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