“This is a fucking social experiment,” my girlfriend spit out in the midst of cackling at Aaron and Martin, Black sibling educators from Philly and New Jersey, dominating the “Shania Twain” category and desperately pleading for their “Black card back” after struggling in the “Motown” category on the Season 3 premiere of Beat Shazam.
(Aaron and Martin ended up beating Shazam and winning the $1 million prize, btw.)
This isn’t the most popular show among young Black folk online, but the comical/cringy racial overtones on the Jamie Foxx-hosted Beat Shazam give us plenty to talk about. If you don’t know how the game works, peep this. And if you aren’t familiar with the recurring themes in the show, let me catch you up:
- Duos of color (often both Black) have frequently struggled at identifying hip-hop and R&B songs
- White teams in the first two seasons (often all-women teams) outperformed the human competitors on their way to facing the music-identification app Shazam
- Jamie Foxx leans heavily on stereotypes and cultural “exceptions” for the humor in his hosting job
- e.g. disappointment at a grown Black couple not identifying an Usher song
- Tim and Bryan (Season 2, Ep 3) feeling “Real good,” about the “Rap” category. “Okay, dooon’t judge a man by his cul de sac,” replies Jamie.
“Stereotypes” sounds like a dirty word here, but honestly, Jamie Foxx’s charisma and tact make the low-brow racial humor comfortable for everyone to partake in. While many of Jamie’s jokes are indeed low-hanging fruit that should just stay on the tree, some of what happens on Beat Shazam is truly strange enough to warrant the kind of playful quips and gags Foxx is so good at delivering.
Some notable examples of the absurdity that is Beat Shazam:
- Jennifer and Randall, a Chinese-American sibling duo from Mississippi with the strongest of Southern drawls. (We know Chinese Mississippians are real, still a very baffling experience. Peep the pan over to the Black audience members dying laughing at 0:20.)
- Jamie, a proud Texan, asking Season 2 team Kasey and Celeste about their Southern “ruts.” Midway through their story about their parents’ rather large-scale bootleg moonshine operation, Foxx rhetorically asks, “Where is Rick Ross? This is crazy!”
- After correctly guessing “Love Machine” by The Miracles, Beth indulges in Jamie Foxx’s scent…twice. After removing her face from the man’s armpit (which Foxx coolly and gleefully plays along with), he calls the scent of his cologne “Young Black Success.” Cue Beth’s husband in the crowd, no match for the Black stallion’s hypermasculine swagger.
This show is as bizarre as Monday night primetime game shows can get, but everyone involved comes exactly as they are. It’s a genuine American mess, and I like it.
With a consistent diversity of contestants (across professions and geography as well as race), and an adept, affable Black entertainer like Jamie Foxx running the show, it seems the program will never get wild enough to set off any serious socially-conscious alarms. If it does though…consider this a scouting report + light warning.
- Most of the awkward White-people-dancing moments are from New England/Midwestern White folk. Many of the strange racial dynamics in Jamie-Contestant interactions are with specifically Southern contestants.
- Ex: a South Carolinian woman who explained she had “a girlfriend who was of the black color” as the reason for her pop culture savvy.
- Black contestants play into the we-let-Black-people-down joke a little too hard. Don’t let Jamie punk y’all like that, man.