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Shazam Player serves up song lyrics in style

Want to learn the words to your favorite song? Or sing along, karaoke-style? This free iOS app turns lyrics into a visual feast.

Shazam Player visualizes song lyrics while you listen. Cool!
Shazam Player visualizes song lyrics while you listen. Cool! Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

I'm a sucker for cool visuals, which is why I'm gaga over the new Shazam Player app for iOS. It takes something fairly straightforward--song lyrics--and presents it in a visually stimulating, impossible-to-look-away way.

Shazam, of course, is best known for the eponymous app that listens to and identifies the song that's playing on the radio, in the cafe, during that TV commercial, etc.

Shazam Player aims to replace the stock iPod app with one that offers a few nifty amenities, starting with LyricPlay, a slick feature that visualizes song lyrics as you listen.

For any "compatible" song (more on that in a minute), Shazam Player will stream the lyrics using one of several cool themes. Think karaoke machine, but with fancy fonts and cool transitions.

For example, sometimes the lyrics scroll from the bottom of the screen to the top. Sometimes they fly in from the side and then shrink into the distance. There's even a kind of reverse "Star Wars"-style text crawl. The player mixes up its various streaming modes with different fonts, font sizes, and background colors, so it always looks a little different.

When it's not in lyric-streaming mode, Shazam Player works like most typical music players.
When it's not in lyric-streaming mode, Shazam Player works like most typical music players. Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

Ads appear at the start and finish of each song, but they're barely a distraction.

LyricPlay rocks. I had a blast "watching" some of my favorite songs (and learning the right words along the way). And for anyone who likes to sing along, karaoke-style, Shazam Player makes it a breeze.

But it's not perfect. I found that the lyrics shown (or highlighted) weren't always in perfect sync with the song. What's more, when you're in visualization mode, you have no access to player controls. You can't pause or skip tracks without returning to the main player interface--very annoying.

Also, the LyricPlay library is currently limited to around 30,000 songs. When Shazam Player scanned my iPhone's library of 1,200 tracks, it found only about 300 that matched--and I have fairly mainstream tastes. Your mileage will undoubtedly vary, but don't be surprised if you can't get lyrics for some--if not most--of your tunes.

The good news is that Shazam Player can play your entire library or just the LyricPlay-compatible tracks. And for any song, you can tap an arrow to bring up extra options: YouTube videos, tour dates, bios/reviews, and Facebook/Twitter sharing options. It's a pretty fun way to get more from your song library.

And it's free, so I definitely recommend taking Shazam Player for a spin. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm about to finally learn the words to Young MC's "Bust a Move."