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You and I, we go back a ways with The Voice, right? So we know: The show is often as much about the coaches’ confounding decisions as it is about the contestants’ efforts. And Tuesday’s conclusion of Season 23’s Battles served up a doozy of a head-scratcher. As you’ll read when you get to the last Battle in this recap, Chance the Rapper went so far as to suggest that one of his team members could win… then kept the other guy, thereby allowing the standout to be stolen by Blake Shelton. WTH? A lovely parting gift for the cowboy on his way out or what? Before you weigh in in the comments, let’s review the night’s performances.

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Team Niall: Jerome Godwin III (Grade: B+) defeated Talia Smith (Grade: C+) on “Like I Can” | To get the Battle of Team Niall’s “two big voices” on track, the coach first had to strip down the instrumentation on Talia’s opening lines to give her more equal footing with her opponent, then adjust some notes that Sam Smith could hit, but Jerome? Not so much. In the end, the winner seemed clear. Mom-to-be Talia showed that she had great range and charisma to spare but was dinged by Chance for pitch issues and Blake for leaving too many “loose ends.” (Nice to get some actual critique, huh?) For his part, Jerome sang like thunder booming. And what was really impressive about what he did was that he sang at top volume… but never seemed to be yelling at us; he maintained his musicality throughout.

Team Kelly: Rachel Christine (Grade: A-) defeated JB Somers (Grade: B) on “Light On” | As sweet a fella as JB seems to be, there was something vanilla about his voice that kept making me want to write him off as boring. But dang it, he wouldn’t let me! It wasn’t just the vocal tricks that he left on the stage that swayed me, either; there was real commitment in his tone. Nevertheless, Christine was clearly superior. She sang with uncommon clarity and a richness that left my jaw drooping. (How amazing would she sound on a country number?) JB’s a good singer, Christine is a potential star (insofar as The Voice makes stars).

the voice recap noivas ray uriel battlesTeam Blake: Neil Salsich (Grade: B+) on “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” | Since Alex Whalen was N/A to perform, owing to personal reasons, his teammate was automatically advanced to the Knockouts. Even if they’d competed, though, Neil would surely have made it. From what we heard of his solo cover, it was scorching. He seemed to alternate between singing in bold, in italics and both! Said it before and will again: He could well turn out to be another Todd Tilghman.

Team Chance: Ray Uriel (Grade: B) defeated NOIVAS (Grade: A) on “Jealous Guy” — NOIVAS stolen by Blake | As the duo tackled the Donny Hathaway version of John Lennon’s oldie in rehearsal, it sounded like the four-chair turn (NOIVAS) was going to blow his one-chair-turn opponent off the stage; his voice is just this crashing tidal wave full off feeling. When the spotlight fell on them, Ray did a lovely job… but honestly didn’t much hold my interest. It wasn’t just that NOIVAS was louder, he sang with so much more passion — he made ya sit up and take notice. So when Chance said that he could win the whole thing, it didn’t sound like empty hype. Why, then, he let NOIVAS get stolen, I’ll never understand.

Your thoughts on Chance’s confounding Ray > NOIVAS pick? Hit the comments after voting for the evening’s standout in the poll below.

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