There's no shortage of Michael Jackson conspiracies, but this one is my favorite: Michael Jackson was supposed to do the music for Sonic 3, one of the biggest video game events of the '90s, but the child abuse scandal that changed his career forever sent Sega running. Nevertheless, the conspiracy goes, some of his work remains in the finished product.
It's not my favorite Michael Jackson conspiracy theory because there's something that sounds exactly like "Stranger in Moscow" in there, or because I love video games, even though both of those things are accurate. It's my favorite because it makes so much sense. Now, according to Fervor Records, the truth can be told--and the way they tell it, this conspiracy runs through Arizona and Brad Buxer of the Jetzons.
First, in case you have no idea what's going on, here's the smoking gun: the Sonic 3 credits sequence, which is unmistakably "Strangers in Moscow":
There are lots more of these Michael Jackson Sonic moments across the soundtrack, none of which are so convincing. But Sega had a long relationship with Jackson; they developed his videogame, Moonwalker, and much later on he appeared in Space Channel 5, an extremely Japanese rhythm game for the Dreamcast.
Here's where Fervor Records comes in: They own '80s AZ royalty the Jetzons' back catalogue, which contains an unreleased song, "Hard Times," that is more than a little similar to Sonic 3's Ice Cap Zone theme.
Through waveform comparison--people are serious about this stuff--it's become an accepted part of Sonic 3 lore. The plot thickens: Brad Buxer was Michael Jackson's musical director.
What Brad Buxer wasn't is credited as the writer for "Hard Times"; that, says Fervor, went to frontman Bruce Connole.
Buxer gave an interview in French that touched on it, which has been translated here; his explanation vindicates the bulk of the rumor, that Jackson was involved, while cutting down a lot of the fanon explanations for why it's been so hushed up until now. In short:
- Yes, Michael Jackson worked on Sonic 3.
- No, Michael Jackson was not kicked off the project because his name was poison; he was unsatisfied with the Genesis' sound capabilities, which should sadden chiptune fans everywhere.
- Yes, that's "Stranger in Moscow," and
- It's "Stranger in Moscow because I wrote and performed the bulk of it.
If that's so... well, Buxer is wildly more magnanimous about not getting the songwriting royalties for "Stranger in Moscow" than I would be. ("I'm not credited as co-composer, but I worked closely with Michael on the composition and structure of this song ... when you have the opportunity to work with such a musical genius, being credited or not doesn't really matter.")
It's a rare Michael Jackson conspiracy that A) turns away from his supposed sexual proclivities, instead of toward them and B) gets more interesting when you finally know the whole story. So here's to you, Michael Jackson, Sonic 3, and Brad Buxer. Thanks for not being terrible.
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