It's long been rumoured that Michael Jackson's impact on the videogame world may not have only included his "Smooth Criminal"-inspired Moonwalker, but the sounds of Sonic the Hedgehog. Following years of denials from corporate heads at Sega, a new expose seems to have proved, via the gamemakers of Sonic the Hedgehog 3, that the King of Pop did in fact have a hand in scoring the platformer.
A Huffington Post piece traces the longstanding rumour of Jackson's involvement, pointing out stylistic similarities between MJ's oeuvre and Sonic's "Ice Cap Zone" theme, the "Carnival Night Zone" theme and the game's end-credits music. For instance, it's argued that the "Ice Cap Zone" sounds like a sped-up "Smooth Criminal," or that the "Carnival Night Zone" features a bit of the new jack swing of Dangerous single "Jam."
You can hear a fan-made comparison between various selections from Sonic and Jackson's back catalogue down below.
Speaking with the Huffington Post, former Sega executive Roger Hector confirmed that Jackson had reached out to the videogame company, with whom he'd already worked with for 1990's Moonwalker, to express his appreciation of the Sonic the Hedgehog series. This apparently happened while Sonic the Hedgehog 3 was being made.
Jackson is said to have then met with the Sonic team at their offices, and was given a demo of the game, which he took home and began to compose an original score for. Sega received multiple cues from the musician, of which Hector later noted: "I was really impressed with how much of a signature Michael Jackson sound there was in this, and yet, it was all new."
Other figures involved that have now said Jackson was part of the making of Sonic the Hedgehog 3, including composers Doug Grigsby, Cirocco Jones and Brad Buxer, all of of whom being listed in the end credits of the game. Buxer is of particular note, as he was also Jackson's musical director.
"I was working with Michael on the Dangerous album," Buxer explained, "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."
There are a couple of different theories as to why Jackson's name was pulled off the project. One side claims that the 1993 allegations of child molestation against MJ were instrumental in the decision, while Buxer said that the way the music had been transferred to the 16-bit game was not to Jackson's high standards. Originally, there had been a bunch of beatboxing samples from Jackson, along with other "Michaelisms," but the soundtrack was altered a bit before it saw release.
"Michael wanted his name taken off the credits if they couldn't get it to sound better," Buxer explained.
While Sega currently denies that Jackson was involved in the project, it should be noted that this wasn't the only uncredited appearance of the singer's career. A 1991 episode of The Simpsons titled "Stark Raving Dad" had Jackson voicing a character named Leon Kompowsky and contributing an original song called "Happy Birthday Lisa." His involvement was fully confirmed by the show makers years later via a DVD commentary track.