"Beat Shazam" Review

Set Design- 8
Gameplay- 5
Show Flow- 6
Potential Viewer Ratings- 9
Play-Along Factor- 10
Host- 9
Overall Rating- 7.8

Premise: Three pairs of teams compete on each show to identify hit songs quickly and correctly. After a song is played, teams must select the correct song title out of four multiple-choice answers. The team who selects the correct answer in the fastest time earns the cash value of the song. Here are the dollar values for each song in the front game:

Round 1: $1,000; $1,000; $2,000
Round 2: $2,000; $2,000; $2,000; $2,000; $4,000
Round 3: $3,000; $3,000; $3,000; $3,000; $6,000
Round 4: $5,000; $5,000; $5,000; $5,000; $10,000
Round 5: $10,000; $10,000; $10,000; $10,000; $20,000

The category changes between each round and the final song in each category is deemed as the “Fast Track”, due to the doubling dollar value. In the third round, a guest star makes a special appearance and the category is based on the celebrity. The teams with the lowest total in the third and fifth rounds are eliminated from the game. The second place team leaves with one-half of their winnings. Should a tie occur, one more song is played with no category given and the faster team who responses correctly advances to the bonus round to beat Shazam.

In the end game, the winning team must give the exact title to six songs before Shazam identifies it in five seconds. The first five songs are worth $25,000 each and will be added to the team’s total from the front game. On the sixth song, the team must decide to play the song to double their winnings or keep the money they have accrued to that point. The team loses half their winnings should they incorrectly guess the sixth song title. If the team can guess all six titles correctly, their winnings jump to $1 million.

There are over 60,000 living languages that exist in our world today spoken by over seven billion people that currently inhabit our planet, from the top three languages (Mandarin Chinese, Spanish and English) to some of the more obscure, lesser-known languages (Sarcee, Satawalese, Cafundo Creole). As vast and bountiful languages are on a global scale, music is the one form of communication that is universally understood by everyone. Music has the ability to build bridges and bring people together from all walks of life just to celebrate in the moment by singing, dancing and harmonizing to their favorite songs. The latest benefit concert in Manchester, headlined by Ariana Grande, best exemplifies my preface. In that moment of unity, people congregated by the thousands and made the unwavering decision that the recent horrendous, tragic and senseless terror attacks in England was not going to drastically alter their day-to-day routine; nor were they going to kowtow to the fear and chaos that stemmed from the aforementioned attacks. The similar communal, uplifting spirit – albeit at a lower level – was exhibited on Beat Shazam.

One of the intangibles that was prominent on FOX’s latest music-based game show was the energy exuded throughout the studio. From the audience members to the contestants, the atmosphere is electric, vivacious, nostalgic and infectious. The concept of Beat Shazam is the perfect type of program where anyone of any age can play along with the show and will even attract viewers who are not the most ardent game show fans. The show provides a healthy array of songs from various artists and musicians, from 80s pop to modern day hip hop; from country to soul; from Adele to ZZ Top. Jamie Foxx is another incentive for viewers to tune in. Foxx is a fantastic host for this show with his vast knowledge of music across a panoply of genres and his entertaining and extroverted personality to keep the teams engaged and amused throughout the game.

Moving on the gameplay, I have a mixed feelings about the show’s format. I love the general concept of identifying songs in the fastest time possible. This tried-and-true idea has worked with such game shows including as Name That Tune and Face The Music. However, competing in this game is more difficult than playing on the other series I’ve listed, especially when teams are facing four other competitors (and eventually Shazam in the end game) to quickly and frantically guess song titles in less than two seconds on average. Allowing contestants to select from four multiple-choice answers ironically presents more of a challenge to the teams. The alternate answers are cleverly and deceptively written to easily throw contestants off who are either not quite familiar with the song or subconsciously and habitually forces them to select an incorrect option based off the first lyrics they hear from the song, even though they know the correct song title if they were not on under strict time constraints. You really need to have sharp pop culture music knowledge in order to thrive in this game and random guesses will get you nowhere, even though the multiple-choice options are available to assist in the main game.

Next to the gimmicky celebrity cameo appearances, the most surprising element on Beat Shazam was the staggering amount of money was up for grabs in the front game. Song values gradually appreciate from $1,000 up to $20,000 and a perfect game nets you $124,000. Through three episodes, first place teams averaged around $68,000 and runners-up averaged $33,000 before half is stripped from their take-home total. That’s quite incredible.

However, although you can win a bundle in the front game and in the first five songs in the bonus round, the show is much too lenient on how much a contestant could win in consolation cash should they blow it on the sixth song. The gap between the team’s current and consolation earnings is much too narrow when you have teams falling back on $80,000 on an incorrect answer in the most crucial, climactic part of the show. Teams should only be allowed to leave with 10% of their winnings on an incorrect answer on the sixth song to bolster the vital “big risk, big reward” game show trope. It seems the only reason the producers would decide to provide such as large safety net is to encourage more teams to go for it all, thus increasing the odds of manufacturing big money moments.

The major issue I have with Beat Shazam is the simplicity of the gameplay. Although I had lauded the show’s utilization of the song identification format, the producers could have displayed more variety in each round rather than merely increasing the dollar values. The entire front game feels like I’m watching a lengthy, seemingly endless opening warmup toss-up round. The show could have added rounds, including their own version of “Bid-A-Note” and substitute wagering notes for tenths of seconds, guess songs solely based on the lyrics or guessing the main artist based on an instrumental of their hit song. We’ve seen several musical game shows over the years creatively tweak and adjust the Name That Tune template such as Musical Chairs, Keynotes, Don’t Forget The Lyrics, The Singing Bee and more recently Tracks. As repetitive as all six rounds are, Beat Shazam could have been easily trimmed down to 30-minute show.

Even though its format is too one-dimensional and redundant, Beat Shazam is still a terrific and challenging game show to add to your summer viewing watchlist. Whether you’re watching because you’re a fan of Jamie  Foxx and resident DJ October Gonzalez or whichever guest star is bound to make a special appearance, it’s a great program for anybody to watch and offers plenty of reasons for you to tune in aside from the show covering hit songs all across the music spectrum. As I had stated in my review of Love Connection, I think FOX will bring this show back next summer.

Stay tuned for new episodes of Beat Shazam every Thursday at 8:00pm on FOX! Catch up on the rest of episodes of the series online on FOX.com.
**All screenshots have been taken from the actual episodes of Beat Shazam.  No ownership is implied.**

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