We finally know after 23 years…
For years now, it’s been rumoured that Michael Jackson at least partially wrote the soundtrack for Sonic 3 & Knuckles. Many of the songs in the game sound remarkably similar to some of Jackson’s: just compare Carnival Night Zone and “Jam,” or the end credits theme and “Stranger in Moscow,” and you can hear some distinct Jackson influence.
Almost 23 years after the game’s release, the Huffington Post claims it now has definite confirmation that Jackson’s music is in the game, as well as the reasons as to why he wasn’t credited. It’s an incredibly long but interesting feature that I heavily recommend you go and read.
The short version if it is that despite Sega having always denied his involvement, three of the six credited composers on the game — Brad Buxer, Bobby Brooks, and Doug Grigsby III — all say that Jackson worked closely with the team to compose the soundtrack.
The team originally wrote the music as “high-profile” tracks that needed to be compressed to fit on the cartridge alongside all the other game assets. This is apparently one of the two major reasons why Jackson isn’t credited, as he was unhappy with how the songs sounded once it was processed and in-game.
The other reason is definitely the more infamous one: at the same time as he was allegedly composing the soundtrack, Jackson was accused of molesting a 13-year-old child. Many of his sponsors and public relations were dropped, and his name was dragged through the mud.
This is where things get a bit complicated. The molestation accusations started around the same time as the team submitted the soundtrack to Sega. This meant that, according to former Sega executive Roger Hector, all of the music had to be scrapped and recomposed without Jackson, despite it already being put into the game.
Grigsby denies this and claims that music from Jackson certainly still is in the there. This is confirmed by Howard Drossin, who was brought in to recompose the soundtrack after Jackson’s deal with Sega broke down. He says that he didn’t touch some tracks, and only made minor edits to others, meaning Jackson’s work is still included somewhere.
While the connection between Michael Jackson and Sonic 3 has always been obvious, it is nice to finally have some confirmation by those who worked with him on it. It’s one of the gaming’s great mysteries, and it’s nice to see it be answered.
Oh, and as a fun little side-note: compare Ice Cap Zone’s theme with a song by Brad Buxer’s band, The Jetzons.
The Michael Jackson Video Game Conspiracy [The Huffington Post]