Iam Tongi Reimagines “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” And It’s Magical
via Iam Tongi / Youtube
American Idol winner Iam Tongi has dropped a captivating acoustic rendition of the classic song “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” as part of his series where he covers some of his favorite tracks.
Although it was based on the popular song from “Wizard of Oz”, Iam’s cover is a nod to the track’s iconic reimagining by his fellow Hawaiian singer Israel Kamakawiwoʻole.
The emerging Hawaiian star pays homage to Kamakawiwoʻole rendition while also adding his unique touch to the song.
This new rendition features Iam singing the famously heartfelt lyrics while playing an electric guitar, complemented by a sweet steel guitar, resulting in a simple yet emotionally resonant performance.
A magical twist of a quintessential movie soundtrack
The song was originally composed in 1939 by Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg for “The Wizard of Oz”, and it was sung by lead actress Judy Garland.
Israel Kamakawiwoʻole’s rendition – a ukulele medley with another iconic song “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong – was accompanied by acoustic instruments, infusing a Hawaiian island twist into this beloved classic.
Kamakawiwoʻole famously recorded the song as a last-minute decision for his second album Facing Future, calling the recording studio at 3 AM to record the musical idea his mind had grasped at that moment.
IZ’s cover reached number 12 on the Billboard Hot Digital Tracks chart in early 2004, becoming his most popular song and catapulting him and Facing Future into platinum success.
Iam Tongi’s victory lap thus far
In addition to “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, Iam has also shared a cover of Morgan Wallen’s “Sand in My Boots”. This choice might come as a surprise to some fans, but Iam once again injects his distinctive style into the familiar song.
Since his victory on American Idol in May, Iam has been incredibly active. He recently released an original single titled “Why Kiki?” and embarked on a world tour, including concerts in Australia and New Zealand.
Currently, he is performing on the East Coast and in the Midwest, with an upcoming YESSAH: IAM TONGI Returns to Hawaiʻi concert scheduled for December 9 and 10 at the Neal S. Blaisdell Center in Honolulu and at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center in Maui on December 12 and 13. Iam’s concert will also feature special guests who have yet to be announced.
The new American Idol has also announced his participation in the Gwen Stefani headlining Cali Vibes festival in Long Beach, set to take place from February 16-18, 2024.
An American Idol winner like no other
Iam Tongi, celebrated as “one of the show’s strongest victors ever”, has carved his own place in music history as the first Pacific Islander to secure victory on American Idol. His emotionally charged performances left season 21 judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry, and Luke Bryan astounded, making him the most talked-about contestant on the show.
At just 18 years old, Iam made a life-changing move to Seattle, Washington, driven by what he described as being “priced out of paradise” during his appearance on the show.
Iam, a high school student who originally hails from Kahuku, Hawaii, quickly rose to become the season’s most popular contestant after his audition clip went viral. Grieving over the recent loss of his father, Iam delivered a heartfelt rendition of James Blunt’s “Monsters”.
In the finale, Iam delivered an emotional performance of the same song, sharing the stage with James Blunt himself. Ultimately, Iam emerged as the victor in the competition, triumphing over the country/Christian singer Megan Danielle.