Popular service Shazam, which identifies unknown songs playing on TV or radio, transitioned to music playback and artist discovery with its free Shazam Player app for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. But even better is the software program's truly killer new app: LyricPlay, a feature which displays scrolling animated lyrics, transforming the application into a virtual karaoke machine for instant sing-along fun.
At its core, the player provides base playback functionality including pause, rewind, fast-forward, shuffle and skip functions, letting you listen to your entire music library as the mood strikes. However, these features mostly mirror the base functionality already found in iTunes and iOS devices. Ancillary options allow you to share news of songs via Facebook and Twitter, access artist bios, watch related videos on YouTube and pull up concert tour dates for featured acts. Still, as evidenced by awkward controls and limited playlist support, outside of LyricPlay options, there's little incentive for listening through the program over iOS' devices own built-in service.
LyricPlay's features, compatible with over 30,000 tracks from B.o.B. and Hayley Williams' "Airplanes" to Dido's "White Flag," could elevate the offering to cult status. Capable of automatically scanning your digital music collection for supported content, it makes songs available for listening alongside optional graphic visualizations of featured subject matter. By displaying giant, highlighted words in a number of fonts which spin, twirl and fly in atop varying colored backgrounds, the program makes it easy for users to quickly caterwaul along with favorite tunes. Full, static text lyric sheets remain available for those interested in memorizing slow-moving paeans such as Marc Cohn's "Walking in Memphis" or mastering Top 40 ballads like Coldplay's "Viva la Vida." But the application is also capable of providing sliding, angled fade-ins and Star Wars-style planed scrolling, adding new perspectives to even the hoariest old tunes.
Despite occasionally displaying pop-up ads near the start and finish of songs and including random grammatical errors (we spotted "your a jerk" in a New Boyz track), LyricPlay's options prove a surprisingly prescient addition. Functionality could clearly be enhanced, with no playback or volume controls available during karaoke performances. Likewise, only sanitized transcriptions are available (sorry, no explicit versions), and no rhyme or reason appears to apply to song compatibility, either. Periodic quirks (e.g. as many "Wah Wah Wahs" as some songs require and Avril Lavigne's "What the Hell" deserves a more unique text treatment for her pronunciation of "cra-aaaa-zay!") aside, though, upsides are obvious. Offering endless opportunities to practice falsetto choruses outside of the shower and decipher artists' often garbled musings, companion song lyrics could become a de facto standard for new music apps going forward.