Though Sonic the Hedgehog fans have long been studying and dissecting the similarities between Michael Jackson’s music and the tunes featured in the 1994 game Sonic the Hedgehog 3; it appears as if all their conspiracy theory dreams may have finally come to fruition.
As it turns out, it’s all true. A new feature by The Huffington Posthas brought to light the real story of the making of Sonic’s soundtrack and the secret contribution made by Michael Jackson himself. Six composers are officially credited on the game, which was developed in a secure location in California’s Silicon Valley: Brad Buxer, Bobby Brooks, Doug Grigsby III, Darryl Ross, Geoff Grace, and Cirocco Jones.
However, after the Sonic community exploded with rumours of Jackson’s involvement, as well as mounting evidence of the similarity in the music’s melodies, a 2009 article in French magazine Black & White seemed to give first official confirmation of the collaboration. Within its pages, an interview with Brad Buxer stated he had worked with the singer, though he was unsure whether anything had made it into the final game; “I’ve never played the game so I do not know what tracks on which Michael and I have worked the developers have kept.”
The Huffington Post has now significantly substantiated the story; elaborating that Jackson had, indeed, visited the Sega Technical Institute in early 1993. “He wanted to drop by and say hello,” stated Roger Hector, who headed the development team for Sonic 3. “There was no agenda beyond it other than, he really, really liked the game. He enjoyed playing it a lot and he wanted to meet the people behind it.”
It was during that visit, purportedly, that he was asked to write music for the game. “I was working with Michael on theDangerous album,” Buxer stated, “and he told me he was going to be doing the Sonic the Hedgehog soundtrack for Sonic 3. He asked me if I would help him with it.”
The six composers worked for four weeks alongside Jackson, creating an estimated 41 tracks (or cues, as gaming culture names them); Cirocco Jones even recalls receiving late night phonecalls from the singer to discuss ideas and melodies for the game.
Audio was recorded in full for later compression into the game. “We were recording lots of beatboxing. Lots of Michael’s mouth percussion. … He’d be laughing, joking, and that kind of infectious attitude would … make the work not seem like work,” recalled one of the game’s sound engineers, Matt Forger. “Michael understood that this was for a game, he was in a really up mood whenever we’d be working.”
However, between Jackson’s visit to the Sega Institute and the release of the full game on 2 February 1994, the first accusations of child molestation against the star began to surface. Hector claims Jackson was pulled from the game because of the allegations, though several of the composers insist it was due to his own dissatisfaction with the quality of the audio compression. It’s also unclear how much of Jackson’s music actually made it to the final game and how much may have been created by composer Howard Drossin, who was hired after Jackson’s removal. To this day, Sony has only stated on the matter: “We have nothing to comment on the case.”
One thing can be settled, however. The conspiracy theorists were right, with Buxer confirming the melody of the game’s end credits can also be found on Jackson’s single Stranger in Moscow. “These cues are all over the Internet,” he said. “People have accurately matched the songs to the cues.”