“Beat Shazam” offers music fans fun, cash and stereotyping?

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Just when we weren’t sure American television needed another game show, or a show of any kind for that matter, FOX’s “Beat Shazam” show gives music fans the kind of show they are glad to participate in, at home, or in person. As exciting as this development is, “Beat Shazam” highlights a flaw in the socio-cultural fabric of the United States.

“Beat Shazam”: A game show for people who get music

I don’t have official research on this, but something tells me that people who are actual music fans, as in “fanatics,” don’t watch a lot of television. Unless something about music is on. Claiming fanatic status does not require special credentials or degrees. Do you love music? Can you give encyclopedic information about bands at the drop of a hat? Then FOX’s new show, “Beat Shazam” is for you.

Until now, music fans have had to content themselves with episodes of “Jeopardy!” that featured a popular music category. As for other media, there is always “Song Pop” in which you can play against people outside of your social media circle when your real-life friends won’t indulge you any longer.

Having a show, an actual show, that focuses on the kind of esoteric knowledge that music lovers tend to have, probably helps the show’s creators tap into a demographic that was hidden from them.

How “Beat Shazam” works

The show works by having three pairs of contestants literally try to guess the name of a song and its artist. They are given multiple choice questions at first. But things get more complicated as the show goes along. At least it’s real music. I’m just old enough to remember the bleating notes of “Name That Tune.” It was a wonder anyone could win that game.

Beat Shazam Host, Jamie Foxx. Photo by Gage Skidmore, CC 2.0, via Flickr.

Jamie Foxx’s witty banter is a bonus. His interaction with DJ October and the guests is like watching a short stand-up comedy routine. In addition, the audience tends to be lively. They, too, seem to be avid music lovers. Seeing the studio audience dance and sing along to a song that people at home like, too, helps to connect us just a little more.

However…

Sometimes things are too good to be true. Despite what we know about the history of popular music in the United States, and that we also know that stereotyping is wrong, we, like host Foxx, have expectations. He expected the black contestants to know all “black” music. As it turned out, those contestants were a little more pop-oriented. While he made jokes about the situation, the incident was indicative of a larger problem. Sometimes, Americans assume too much about each other’s musical preferences. If we are going to truly enjoy music as the free and wonderful vehicle for expression that it is, we should probably stop assuming we know what music people enjoy by looking at them.

The way we were raised, where we live, our ages, and so much more determines the music we think fits our needs. With so many variables determining who we are, it is a bit shortsighted to try to match skin color to musical genres.

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