American Idol: Jessica Sanchez Delivers Tearjerking "I Will Always Love You" Performance

Entertainment Mar. 8, 2012 AT 1:55PM

American Idol hopeful Jessica Sanchez paid tribute to the late, great Whitney Houston Wednesday with a heartfelt cover of her 1993 hit "I Will Always Love You."

The performance earned the 16-year-old the only standing ovation of the evening, as female contestants were tasked with singing songs from Houston's music catalog; male competitors performed Stevie Wonder covers.

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"This is one of the hardest songs in the world to sing," judge Randy Jackson told Sanchez. "You were not only the best vocal of the night, but I think you are one of the best singers in this whole competition!"

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Judge Jennifer Lopez, 42, choked back tears. "When you did the last three things and we were right there with you, I think you were even surprised in yourself," Lopez said. "It was beautiful. You are so talented. God bless you!"

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Steven Tyler was equally floored, telling Sanchez: "You may be the one. You just made 40 million people cry."

American Idol is hardly Sanchez's first time in the spotlight: when she was 11 years old, Sanchez competed on the first season of America's Got Talent.

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