I grew up a Nintendo kid. We were early adopters of the 8-bit gaming console, with Super Mario Bros and its sequels being pretty much the greatest thing in my life. We upgraded to a Super Nintendo when that was available and continued on the Mario train. But friends of mine had Sega Genesis—it seemed like a weirdly magical contraption, with its better colors and extra speedy platformer hero, Sonic the Hedgehog. Lots of people were fans of the little blue ring collector… including, evidently, Michael Jackson. If I’d known about his connection to the third Sonic game, I might have persuaded my parents to jump console ship.
Now, you may have heard about this conspiracy rumor, but I sure hadn’t. Luckily, Huffington Post‘s Todd Van Luling has detailed it in an extremely interesting and comprehensive article. The short version is this: A Manchester youth named Ben Mallinson was both a huge Blue (meaning a devotee of Sonic) and a confirmed fan of Michael Jackson. Not so weird in the early ’90s, sure. He remembers thinking, as a nine-year-old, how much the music in Sonic 3 reminded him of the music of MJ.
Fast-forward several years to the dawn of the Internet, and Mallinson began exploring his theory: that Michael Jackson’s “Jam” off the 1991 album Dangerous sounded an awful lot like the music for “Carnival Night Zone,” one of Sonic 3‘s levels. The music for the game was credited to Brad Buxer, Bobby Brooks, Doug Grigsby III, Darryl Ross, Geoff Grace, and Cirocco Jones, with no mention of Michael Jackson at all. But, really, why would Michael Jackson write video game music?
Let’s compare, shall we? Here’s the music to “Carnival Night Zone:”
And here’s Michael Jackson’s “Jam:”
Fans went insane thinking about this supposed conspiracy, bombarding anybody who worked on any Sonic game with emails until they could no longer stand it. Still more evidence began popping up.
There were definitely connectiosn: Brad Buxer, one of the composers credited with the game’s music, was Jackson’s regular collaborator and director. In 1990, Sega had released the game “Moonwalker,” based on Jackson’s signature dance move. It seems now very likely that Jackson did have something to do with the soundtrack, but because of the limitations of video game music of the time, the King of Pop wasn’t too pleased with the result. Plus, the 1993 scandal surrounding Jackson’s alleged molestation of young boys might have kept Sega from publicizing a relationship with the artist.
For more detail, read the whole article—it’s truly fascinating, well-researched, and mind-boggling. Personally, I don’t really hear the “Michael Jackson” in the Sonic 3 music, but there’s clearly enough of a presence to keep people up in arms for decades.
Where do you stand on the debate? Let us know in the comments below!
HT: AV Club
Kyle Anderson is the Weekend Editor and a film and TV critic for Nerdist.com. Follow him on Twitter!