Erika Van Pelt courageously took on Whitney Houston‘s ‘I Believe In You and Me ’ on ‘American Idol‘ tonight, a big song requiring impeccable vocals. Erika more than lived up to the challenge, filling the shoes of the recently departed Houston. 

A pre-performance interview with Ryan Seacrest had Erika comparing her last-minute wild-card save last week to a, “roller-coaster ride.” Erika was able to show off her fun-loving personality as she posed for promo shots in front of a giant fan, prompting Ryan to joke, “that’s how Jennifer Lopez started her career.”  ‘Idol’ mentor Jimmy Iovine warned Erika to find her own style with the song. Guest mentor Mary J. Blige loved Erika’s tone calling it a, ”steak and potatoes,” type of tone.

Erika owned the dramatic ballad, completely making it her own. Looking polished in a red dress, she had the crowd swaying along with her impressive vocal acrobatics. Though she seemed to a bit timid with the chorus, she nailed the verses and finished on a power note.

Randy Jackson sung Erika’s praises, telling her she was, “absolutely amazing.”  J. Lo had goose bumps  just from a snippet of Erika singing  in her practice tape. Although J. Lo claimed Erika made the song her own, she still wanted Erika to really let loose. Steven Tyler said Erika was, “perfect.” We have to agree with ‘Idol’s wackiest judge on this one.

Watch Erika Van Pelt Perform ‘I Believe in You and Me’ on ‘American Idol’