In 1993, the world's biggest pop star (Michael Jackson) agreed to produce music for the world's biggest video game franchise (Sonic The Hedgehog - come at me, Mario fans!) It was a magical melding of two cultural icons; akin to Fred Astaire meeting Jerry the mouse.
Or at least, it would have been, if Sega hadn't permanently scrubbed Michael's involvement from the record books. Today I discovered what happened.
When Michael Jackson was approached by Sega to create music for Sonic The Hedgehog 3, the partnership made perfect sense. Jackson was a confirmed fan of the franchise and had already worked with Sega on a number of other video game titles. What could possibly go wrong?
For more than a decade, the extent of Michael Jackson's involvement in Sonic The Hedgehog 3 was kept firmly under wraps. Then, in 2005, the game's director Roger Hector finally revealed the truth. During an email correspondence with a fan, Hector disclosed the following:
Sonic 3 (also called Sonic & Knuckles) was a lot of fun, but it was also very difficult. Michael Jackson was originally brought in to compose all the music for the game, but at the very end, his work was dropped after his scandals became public. This caused a lot of problems and required a lot of reworking.
The "scandals" refer to Jackson's alleged sexual abuse of a minor and the widespread media coverage this generated. While Jackson was never charged with a crime and strenuously denied the claims, his decision to settle with the family out of court for $22 million cast a shadow of doubt on his innocence.
In the wake of the furore, Sega wiped all mention of Michael Jackson from Sonic The Hedgehog 3's in-game credits and promotional material. Any existing tunes were therefore removed from the final release...or were they?
There are some who maintain Jackson's musical contributions remain in the game - including people who were involved in its creation. According to Sonic 3 musician Cirocco Jones, Jackson provided musical cues for levels 2 and 3.
Sega has officially denied this, claiming that no formal agreement was ever made with Jackson for his music. While it's true that Jackson never signed a contract with Sega, it remains possible that portions of his demo were used anyway. (We imagine Jackson had more pressing concerns at the time than securing a cheque for Megadrive music.)
This theory is backed by Jackson's songwriting collaborator Brad Buxer, who claims Jackson wrote several Sonic 3 compositions but chose to remain uncredited. In addition, the musical theme for Sonic 3's Ice Cap Zone closely resembles an unreleased 1982 track for which Buxer was the keyboardist and co-songwriter.
We'll leave the final word to gaming personality Elizabeth DeLoria:
Anyone telling me Michael Jackson didn't directly write some of the music for Sonic the Hedgehog 3 hasn't heard a single Micheal Jackson song in their life.
— Elizabeth DeLoria (@elizabethdanger) July 17, 2018
Indeed. Judge for yourself below.