The Story Behind “Monsters,” The Song That Had ‘Idol’ Audience In Tears

American Idol/YouTube

Sunday’s American Idol season finale was one of the most emotional to date, due in part to Iam Tongi’s “Monsters” duet with James Blunt.

Iam Tongi’s American Idol Audition

Iam Tongi first won judges over with his performance of “Monsters” during his Idol audition. At the time, he shared that his dad, Rodney, had died a few months before the audition. Iam told the judges that he could still hear his dad, Rodney, harmonizing with him on every song he sings.

Tongi, a native of Hawaii, sang through tears as he performed “Monsters.” His beautiful rendition had Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan in tears.

“I cannot handle your heart breaking about your dad because, you know, my nephew lost his dad and he came to live with me. Just seeing you missing your dad just sucks,” Luke told Iam at the time.

The judges voted to send Iam through to the Hollywood round marking the beginning of a memorable journey that would end with Iam ultimately being crowned the Season 21 winner during Sunday night’s finale (May 21).

Iam Tongi’s American Idol Finale Performance

During the season finale, the Top 3 singers each sang a Keith Urban cover, their own single, and a collaboration with one of their favorite artists. For Tongi, that artist was James Blunt, the writer of the song that earned him a place on American Idol in the first place, “Monsters.”

It was clear when Iam and James Blunt took the stage that emotions were running high. As a photo of Iam and his late date appeared on screen behind them, Iam was almost immediately in tears when it was his turn to sing the tearjerking lyrics. He wiped tears away as he sang. Cameras caught his mom, guest performer Jelly Roll and judge Katy Perry among those crying.

James Blunt held his composure through the performance, and expertly supported Tongi by placing a hand on his arm as he sang.

James Blunt supports Iam Tongi during Idol finale performance
American Idol/YouTube

Story Behind “Monsters”

“Monsters” was written by James Blunt for his 2019 album Once Upon a Mind. Blunt wrote the song for his own father, Charles, who was diagnosed with stage four chronic kidney disease.

“‘Monsters’ is a song for my father who I idolized as a child, has been my best friend through adult life, and now urgently needs an O positive kidney donor,” Blunt said upon the song’s release.

“My father and I, we love each other and he’s been the most amazing father to me all my life and we know the bond that we have, but if you have a limited amount of time with that person on this Earth, then there’s some other things that I, as a songwriter, feel it would be a good time to say.”

James, who saw his first international success with his 2004 single “You’re Beautiful,” explained that he wrote the lyrics to the song not just as a son, but as his father’s friend.

“Those are kind of risky things to say because you hope they’re not misunderstood or taken the wrong way, but they say something deeper than just ‘I love you, you’re my father, I love you as my friend as well’.”

Blunt’s highly emotional official music video for “Monsters” features him singing directly to the camera, his eyes filled with tears. Toward the end of the video, the camera pans out to show his dad sitting next to him.

Knowing the story behind the song, it’s no wonder Iam Tongi felt it was the perfect song to both start and end his American Idol journey with following the death of his dad. Following Iam and James Blunt’s Idol performance, “Monsters” climbed to the top of the iTunes charts, a testament to the power of the song and its ability to resonate with listeners.

Watch James Blunt and Iam Tongi sing “Monsters” during the American Idol finale below.