The Case of the Phantam Shazam Song


Some time in 2021, around November 7th, I came across an ad for alcohol on YouTube. The advertisement, named "#TeamUpForExcellence the Film," featues at 5 minutes, 27 seconds a song which has a striking resemblance to Kendrick Lamar’s "HUMBLE." I, being a compulsive mashup maker, desired to make a mashup using the song from the ad and Lamar’s vocals, so I played that portion of the ad again and piped it into Shazam, assuming that the song was licensed. The result I got was somewhat strange.

Shazam told me that I had heard a song named "Team Up" by Raphael Saadiq. After some Google searching, I later learned that Saadiq had produced the ad’s soundtrack, as explained in a now private behind-the-scenes video and many a news article. It seemed as if I had found the song, and it was not a license, but a commission.

This was all well and good, but I for the life of me could not find a copy of the song that didn’t have Usher yammering over it. The """music video""" for the song on Shazam is a performance by two unrelated artists in some South Carolinan café, and the Shazam page is otherwise barren; not even album art. Nothing on Google that wasn’t reporting on the ad, nothing on YouTube, nothing on Spotify, nothing on SoundCloud, nothing on Apple Music, nothing, nothing, nothing. I became so desperate for answers that I even wrote a plea for help on Reddit and rummaged around in the DOM and network requests of the Shazam webpage to no avail.

After getting nowhere with my Reddit post, I ultimately gave up on searching for it. Now, more than a year and a half after initially giving up, I am left with even more questions: * Where does Shazam get its the audio for its fingerprints from? Its music metadata? * Does Shazam hold onto the audio they use to generate fingerprints? If so, do they have a copy of the song? * Did the alcohol company plan to release Saadiq’s work but then bailed out? * Are there more "phantom songs"—fingerprints and metadata for unreleased music—like this one just sitting in Shazam’s database?

In order to get definitive to these questions, I would need to get a job at Shazam, and they are not hiring. Hopefully, by bringing this to the attention of more people, some answers can eventually be found. I’ll make sure not to get my hopes up.