ByMarlon McDonald, writer at
Umm... are you going to drink that Skooma?
Marlon McDonald

Thinking back on your time spent feverishly tearing your way through Sonic the Hedgehog's brilliant adventures on the SEGA Genesis, what are the first few things that cross your mind?

Naturally the fast paced action, incredibly colorful and inventive stages, and the music right? Yes, the Sonic franchise has the pleasure of boasting some of the best gameplay of its time, but also alongside that comes some of the most iconic musical themes in gaming history.

I mean, just listen to this:

But at a time when the likes of Nobuo Uematsu and Koji Kondo were the reigning champions of video game music, did you know Michael Jackson was covertly making waves over at SEGA? Yes, the King of Pop secretly helped to create the score for Sonic 3.

Smooth Criminal

The rumor that Jackson had worked on the Sonic 3 score has been floating about on the web since its fledgling years, and has had some rousing examples of fact. But now, thanks to an illuminating expose by Huffington Post, the rumors have finally been found as truth.

Before the accusations of child molestation turned him into a public laughing stock, the early '90s saw Michael Jackson at the very height of his powers. He was globally loved by kids and adults alike, touring his album Dangerous, was in a movie called Moonwalker in which he played a kid-rescuing transformer that was able to turn into a car, a plane, a massive cyborg and... clay at will, had crazy marketing deals with huge companies like Pepsi, and was possibly the most talented person on the planet at the time.

Yeah, he had everything going for him, even his own SEGA developed video game too! Which was amazing by the way.

But you know who didn't have everything going for them at the time? SEGA, that's who. Despite them and Nintendo being the two singular behemoths in the game at the time — with SEGA pulling ahead slightly due to more adult themed content existing in their games, SEGA was still to come up with an obscenely outrageous coup that they believed would capture the hearts and minds of edgy, young gamers from the clutches of Nintendo and their SNES.

Don't Stop Til' You Get Enough

Best buds
Best buds

After SEGA's Moonwalker was such a rousing success, Jackson and the game devs, now operating out of their Silicon Valley-based, super secret lab, continued to have a pretty fruitful relationship.

This great camaraderie allowed massive Sonic fan Jackson, after spraining his ankle on the Dangerous world tour, to make a last minute visit to SEGA's technical institute (STI) where they made their super secret games, not sexually transmitted infections. That'd be mean, SEGA!

Now this is where things get cloudy. According to Huff Post's piece, Roger Hector, one of SEGA's former execs, came out and said that during the tour a dev asked Jackson if he was interested in writing the score for Sonic 3. Of course the answer was a resounding yes, though SEGA still to this day rebuffs the claim that Jackson worked on the score.

So, armed with a demo copy of Sonic 3, Jackson and a team of six talented composers comprised of Brad Buxer, Bobby Brooks, Doug Grigsby III, Darryl Ross, Geoff Grace, and Cirocco Jones got to work on creating the score.

Workin' Day and Night

Over four weeks in '93, Jackson and co. composed a veritable smorgasbord of "high-profile" musical cues for Sonic 3. The process of composing the score, as Matt Forger — a sound engineer who worked on Sonic 3 — says, "wasn't as we would normally construct songs for an album or another project of Michael's," seeing as the recordings varied between samples of Jackson laughing and beatboxing, and included genuine, full-blooded, cinematic Jackson tracks.

Unfortunately, the project was soon to fall apart. Though the man was a bonafide musical deity, Jackson didn't have an idea as to how video game music was created for the 16-bit generation.

Gone Too Soon

Happier times
Happier times

After its release on February 3, 1993, Sonic 3 was received with much fanfare, but there was no celebration coming from camp Jackson. Reportedly disappointed in how his epic score went from a-typical Jackson magic to a collection of super compressed beeps and fuzzy chiptune, Jackson removed his name from the game, but his music remained intact.

But, according to Roger Hector, SEGA had claimed that they had removed all of Jackson's work due to the public child molestation allegations the star faced, and naturally SEGA, makers of a market leading product aimed at children, was quick to distance themselves from the cluster cuss of a situation.

That's when SEGA hired composer Howard Drossin to step in and replace the score in its entirety. But when Drossin finally got his hands on Sonic 3 "there was a lot of music already plugged into it," or so says the man himself. He didn't change much of the soundtrack, meaning the game released with Jackson's score intact.

All of this is corroborated by the men Jackson worked on the score with, with Huff Post grabbing the best of the quotes from Dough Grigsby III himself:

"Oh, it did get in the game. The stuff we handed in, the stuff we did, made it. To. The game."

A tale as ridiculous as SEGA's mascot himself, this was how the King of Pop came to turn his all-encompassing gaze upon video game soundtrack work and create the soundtrack of Sonic the Hedgehog 3. Timeless.

Did you already know this incredible story?

(Source: Huff Post)


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