The mystery surrounding Sonic the Hedgehog 3’s soundtrack – and Michael Jackson’s involvement – has once again been thrown into the air thanks to a recent interview with Sonic 3 co-composer and Jackson’s longtime collaborator Brad Buxer.
Buxer has previously been on record to state that Michael Jackson’s work was included within the Sonic 3 cartridge – work that has long rumoured to be the main blocker in SEGA re-releasing the 1993 Mega Drive classic since the pop megastar’s death in 2009. However, in a May interview with Abbey Road Institute Paris, Buxer reminisces about his relationship with Jackson and implies that a large part of the Sonic 3 soundtrack was handed off to him.
“[We had] the most harmonious musical relationship you could ever imagine,” Buxer says, before recalling an anecdote about the origins of the song Stranger in Moscow which involved a cassette tape of the entire Sonic 3 soundtrack.
“With Stranger in Moscow… [Michael and I] were in Moscow performing… I knock on his door and I had under my arm a cassette player. I’d been doing all the SEGA Sonic the Hedgehog [Sonic 3] cues… the way Michael works, is that he tells SEGA that he’ll do it [the soundtrack], and then he says [to me], ‘Brad, you do it,’ right?”
“I think we did one cue [for Sonic 3] with Michael together – one. The rest I had to do it myself. So I had the cassette on me – I had 41 cues done – and I said ‘I’m sure you want to hear this Sonic the Hedgehog [music]’ and he said ‘No, just play something.'”
Sonic 3’s soundtrack has been a topic of huge debate for decades due to the well-known secret that Michael Jackson – arguably the biggest music star on the planet, especially in the 1990s – had some hand in its development. SEGA has never publicly confirmed or denied Jackson’s involvement.
Buxer’s comments also come close to the release of Sonic Origins, a compilation release on modern consoles that includes a re-release of Sonic 3 & Knuckles for the first time since 2009. SEGA has also been keeping very quiet about the nature of the soundtrack included in this release – whether Buxer’s compositions (largely attributed to Ice Cap, Launch Base and Carnival Night Zones) remain, or if they have been replaced.
The Michael Jackson song ‘Stranger in Moscow’ is also interesting in this context because it is also heavily linked with the development of Sonic 3 thanks to the similar sound of the game’s end credits theme. It would make sense that the song could have been born from an evolution of the Sonic 3 credits music, but Buxer does not make this connection in the interview.
“I started playing the verse for Stranger in Moscow, and then I came up with the chorus on the spot,” he said. “Michael fell in love with it… and in an hour and a half Stranger in Moscow was [written]. [Michael] had nothing in mind for that – nothing.” He says that this was an example of the ‘blank slate’ method of working that he often applied when collaborating with the pop star.
You can watch the whole interview here.