Back in the early '90s when Michael Jackson was arguably the most famous person on the face of the planet, he started working with Nintendo's rival Sega on a series of video game projects. Sega was quick to exploit Jackson's natural love of video games with Moonwalker being perhaps the most high-profile work - arcade and home adaptations of the Hollywood movie gained plenty of attention.
It has always been rumoured that Sega got Jackson involved with the music for Sonic the Hedgehog 3, too. He was to compose the majority of the soundtrack and give the game a massive boost of publicity, but before development on the title wrapped Jackson was hit with child molestation allegations which would, according to some sources, lead to his removal from the project.
It has previously been pointed out by fans that some of the game's music is very similar to Jackson's; for example, Jam on the album Dangerous sounds a lot like Sonic 3's Carnival Night Zone, while Stranger in Moscow is almost identical to the Sonic 3 end credit music.
Sega has to this day denied that Jackson had involvement with the game whatsoever.
However, new evidence has come to light that the reason Jackson's name isn't on the credits for Sonic 3 is because he was apparently less than impressed with the quality of his tunes once they'd been adapted for the Mega Drive's sound hardware.
The Huffington Post has spoken to Brad Buxer, Doug Grigsby and Cirocco Jones, three individuals involved with Sonic 3's music, and they confirm that they worked with Jackson on contributions for the Sonic 3 soundtrack.
Here's what Buxer had to say:
I was working with Michael on the Dangerous album 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.
Former Sega staffer Roger Hector confirms this, and says that Sega gave Jackson a demo of the game, and that music was indeed written for it:
It was a big secret. He took it from there and started making music.
Buxer says that Jackson worked with his team for around four weeks in 1993 at Record One studio in California, and created around 41 tracks, or "cues" as they're more commonly referred to in the video game world. Jones remembers Jackson calling him on the phone - often late at night - to run over new ideas and sing melodies that would eventually find their way into the game.
Sound engineer Matt Forger says that during recording, Jackson would kick back and play Sega games in his own relaxation room:
None of us involved in this were really gamers. Michael was probably the one who did play video games to the greatest extent. So, for the rest of us, we knew Sonic the Hedgehog, that was a pretty well-known thing in terms of popular culture, and video games in general, but Michael really is the core.
Forger adds that the process of making the music "wasn't as we would normally construct songs for an album or another project of Michael's":
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. Michael understood that this was for a game, he was in a really up mood whenever we'd be working.
When the news broke that Jackson was being accused of molesting a 13-year-old boy, work continued as normal - in fact, it actually sped up slightly according to Buxer:
Nobody ever told us to hold up progress or anything like that. In fact, there was a lot of pressure from Michael to get this done.
In late summer of 1993, Jackson's team submitted their contribution to Sonic 3's soundtrack. Hector was incredibly pleased with the results:
I was really impressed with how much of a signature Michael Jackson sound there was in this, and yet, it was all new. It clearly had a Michael Jackson sound to it, so that anyone who listened to it would recognize that, gee, that was done by Michael Jackson.
Despite this, Jackson's name would not find its way onto the end credits. Buxer claims that "Michael wanted his name taken off the credits if they couldn't get it to sound better," as the artist wasn't happy with the way the tunes sounded after being compressed and run through Sega's 16-bit console.
Buxer, Grigsby and Jones maintain that all Jackson wanted was for his name to be removed - he didn't ask for the songs to be replaced. Hector, on the other hand, recalls that the entire soundtrack had to be re-done by Howard Drossin. However, Drossin has since admitted that the tunes which sound like Jackson's were not composed by him - pretty solid evidence that Jackson's contributions did make it into the game.
Buxer says that the fans which have spent so long looking for similarities between Sonic 3's music and Jackson's own are bang on the money:
These cues are all over the Internet. People have accurately matched the songs to the cues.
That's another video game myth put to bed, then.