American Idol wasted no time planning its Whitney Houston tribute episode. As soon as voters (and judges) zeroed in on the top 13 last week, it was time to announce that Wednesday's episode would treat us— or subject us, depending on how you look at it — to six women singing Houston's hits and seven men singing Stevie Wonder. (Because, you know, American would never go for a boy singing a girl's song.)

The women undoubtedly had the more insurmountable challenge, given Houston's recent, untimely death and the sheer impossibility of singing any of her songs better than she did. Even with counseling by music great Mary J. Blige, most of the girls fell flat on their faces. But not Jessica Sanchez, the final performer of the night, who issued an astonishingly mature rendition of Houston's biggest hit, "I Will Always Love You." The young singer finished in front of teary-eyed judges and a standing ovation.

Before Sanchez blew it out of the water, the best vocal performance of the night came from little Hollie Cavanagh, who amazed the judges when carried the final note at the end of "All the Man That I Need." Cavanagh's high marks were highly welcome after a string of let-downs, especially Shannon Magrane's disastrous "I Have Nothing" and Elise Testone's "I'm Your Baby Tonight."

The boys, on the other hand, got off to a great start — with Joshua Ledet's upbeat, gospel-inspired version of Wonder's "I Wish" — only to fizzle out by the end. Deandre Brackensick, Phillip Phillips and Jermaine Jones all gave mediocre, forgettable performances, though the judges for some reason (particularly Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler) sang their praises. Umm, it's called judging. Just because they're men doesn't mean they can't survive the hard, honest truth.


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Tune in to Idol tonight to find out who gets eliminated. With new rules announced Wednesday by host Ryan Seacrest, it will be up to the judges to decide between two bottom-feeding contestants. It seems like RuPaul's "Lip Sync For Your Life," which ends every episode of her Logo show Drag Race, really caught on. Only, on Idol, they're singing for real.

Watch Sanchez's performance of "I Will Always Love You" here:

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