A little context: Two weeks ago, I started rambling about the music of Sonic 3, in a Twitter thread. This lead me to writing all of this. Someone suggested I should post it here too. Everyone knows that Michael Jackson "worked on" Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (1994), but what exactly did (or didn't) he work on? I'm here to talk about all the mysteries, facts, and misconceptions regarding the music of Sonic 3. The music for Sonic the Hedgehog (1991) and Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (1992) was composed by Masato Nakamura of the band DREAMS COME TRUE. Nakamura owns the rights to the tracks he composed and ask for royalties whenever SEGA wanted to use one of his tracks. The music for Sonic the Hedgehog CD (1993), on the other hand, was done by SEGA's Naofumi Hataya and Masafumi Ogata, who also did the music for the 8-bit version of Sonic 2. Because Hataya is, and Ogata was (at the time) an employee of SEGA, the company would automatically keep the rights to the music composed for the game. In January of 1993, work started on Sonic 3D (which would eventually become Sonic 3). A few months later, in March, Michael Jackson himself would visit SEGA's offices, where the deal was made that MJ would work on the music of Sonic 3. After that deal was made, though, according to Brad Buxer (MJ's keyboard player and musical director at the time), Michael didn't feel like working on Sonic 3 and told Brad to create music instead. Brad put together a team of himself, Bobby Brooks, Darryl Ross, Geoff Grace, Doug Grigsby III, and Cirocco Jones, who would start working on "cues" in August '93. Brad has stated that Michael worked on 1 out of the 41 cues they wrote. Alongside Brad's "MJ team", SEGA also got a bunch of its composers to create music for the game. This group consisted out of Tokuhiko Uwabo, Sachio Ogawa, Yoshiaki Kashima, Masaru Setsumaru, Tatsuyuki Maeda, Tomonori Sawada, Masayuki Nagao, and Jun Senoue. Some of these composers would work on Sonic again in the future, some with minor involvement, and others with major involvement. SEGA and the MJ team weren't the only involved parties, though. SEGA also enlisted the help of another company: CUBE CORP.. According to Masayuki Nagao, two composers for CUBE CORP. helped on Sonic 3, specifically Miyoko Takaoka and Masanori Hikichi. CUBE CORP.'s old website stated that they wrote "8 songs". Furthermore, the credits for Sonic 3 also list another company, OPUS CORP., but they were only credited because Nagao would soon move to that company. This meant there were a total of 16 (17 counting MJ himself) different musicians working on Sonic 3. Because of this, in the final game, there is a mixture of tracks from MJ's team, SEGA, and CUBE. Sonic & Knuckles (1994) would add Howard Drossin, who was a composer for STI, to the mix as well. Now, let's start with the obvious: Why isn't Michael Jackson credited in Sonic 3? (Quick disclaimer: The following involves a lot of speculation from my end) While Brad has stated in an interview once that it could have been because MJ was unsatisfied with the sound produced by the SEGA Mega Drive, which, while definitely a possible reason, seems unlikely to me. MJ had already worked with SEGA in the past, specifically with Michael Jackson's Moonwalker (1990), which came out on the Mega Drive and featured MJ's music. Another popular theory is that SEGA wanted to cut ties with MJ because of the allegations that came out the same month Brad and his team started working on cues. I also don't believe this theory, as MJ would keep collaborating with SEGA, and being credited accordingly. For example, MJ would go on to play a character based on himself in the Space Channel 5 series, Space Michael. Rather, I think the most logical reason is as follows: Brad mentioned that Michael had worked on exactly 1 out of the 41 cues, and that specific cue wasn't used. Speculation aside, whatever reason MJ was pulled from the credits, MJ and SEGA most likely both agreed to it. If SEGA left MJ uncredited without his consent, it'd be unlikely he would want to work with SEGA again in the future. Let's finally look at the music itself. Analyzing the game's music, the tracks that SEGA does reuse in other games or on albums, and the "November '93" prototype of the game show shows exactly which tracks were done by the MJ team (and thus presumably in legal limbo, or simply not owned by SEGA), and which tracks were done by SEGA and CUBE (and thus owned by SEGA). The MJ team tracks in Sonic 3 are: Carnival Night, IceCap, Launch Base, Act 1 Boss, the Knuckles theme, Staff Roll, and the Competition Menu theme. All other tracks in Sonic 3, and every track in Sonic & Knuckles, are by the SEGA and CUBE CORP. composers. I will now go through every track in the game(s), and discuss what we know about who composed what, starting with the S3 Title theme: Tomonori Sawada has confirmed that he wrote the S3 Title theme, and the jingles based off the Title theme, when he was asked about writing Sky Sanctuary (which he hasn't). In that same message, Sawada also said he wrote Crystal Egg from the 8-bit version of Sonic 2. This being the only track he did for that game, with the rest of the music done by Hataya and Ogata. Sawada composing Crystal Egg will be important for later. [https://imgur.com/o7TQff6] The Data Select theme has been reused and remixed in various other games. SEGA owns the rights to this track, however, it is unknown who composed it. Masaru Setsumaru and Jun Senoue would remix the track for Sonic Jam (1997) and Sonic Generations (2011) respectively, but that doesn't mean either person composed the original. Sestumaru specifically has, according to Sonic Retro, specifically said that he did not compose the original track. Super Smash Bros. Brawl (2008) accidentally swapped composition and arrangement credits for its Angel Island remix, saying Jun Senoue composed the track and that SEGA arranged it. This is of course incorrect, multiple albums have reversed this mistake by including the proper credits. Jun remixed the track, but he isn't the original composer. The Sonic 10th Anniversary pack came with a bonus CD that included some tracks from Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles. These tracks are both game's Title themes, Angel Island, Special Stage (Blue Spheres), and Sky Sanctuary. The album also credits three composers for this collection of tracks, without specifying who did what. The credited composers are Tomonori Sawada (S3 Title), Yoshiaki Kashima, and Howard Drossin. We will get to Drossin and his involvement later, but I can assure that he did not compose Angel Island, Sky Sanctuary, and Special Stage, due to him only working on S&K. This leaves Kashima to have composed these three tracks. During an interview in 2001, Kashima mentioned he 'composed a music for "spacial stage". and I work for Sonic3,in the others,too.' Which lines up with what the 10th Anniversary album implies. And if Sawada and Drossin didn't do Angel Island and Sky Sanctuary, that must mean that Kashima also did those two tracks. So, Yoshiaki Kashima composed Angel Island, Sky Sanctuary, and Special Stages. It is unknown if Kashima also did the arrangements for both Acts, though, since he's only credited for composition. [https://info.sonicretro.org/Milpo_Interview_by_LOst_(July_23,_2001)] Next up, Hydro City. Despite this track reoccurring from time to time, composition is always just given to SEGA, and none of the composers have ever mentioned composing the track. Despite this, Masayuki Nagao has confirmed that he specifically arranged the Act 2 variant of the track. Back in 2014, Miyoko Takaoka was asked about her involvement with Sonic 3. She said she did the music for Marble Garden and "Bonus Stage". However, once linked the Bonus Stage themes, she didn't recognize any as hers. This implies she was asked to write music for Marble Garden, and the Bonus Stages, with only her Marble Garden composition being used in the final game. It is unknown if there were arrangers involved on Marble Garden. [https://twitter.com/soundforest1/status/451046640552382465] Carnival Night, the first MJ team track you'll hear in the game. This song is, of course, heavily based on Michael Jackson's Jam (1991). Even using some samples from the song. It is unknown which of the MJ team members composed this track. During the 80s, Brad Buxer was in a band called The Jetzons. In 2008, an album was released called The Complete Jetzons, which contained various unreleased tracks from the band. One of these tracks is the now well-known track "Hard Times". This track was written by Brad and his band back in 1982, but wouldn't end up being released until The Complete Jetzons. In the meantime, though, Brad reused the composition for Sonic 3. IceCap uses arrangements of The Jetzons' Hard Times, done by Brad Buxer. Hard Times would also get a vinyl release in January 2020. This release features the background of IceCap on the sleeve. [https://fervor-records.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Jetzons_Front.png] Launch Base is yet another track done by the MJ team. However, like Carnival Night, it is unknown who specifically did this track. The S3 Knuckles theme is done by the MJ team. Despite this, though, the drum pattern was also used in Sonic the Hedgehog Pocket Adventure (1999). This is most likely due to the loop being too simple for any copyright issues. It is unknown who did this track, but the drum samples are taken from MJ's Blood on the Dancefloor, for which Brad did the drum programming. This makes it possible that he is the composer, but it's far from confirmed. The Act 1 Boss theme is also done by the MJ team, even incorporating the Knuckles drumloop, or the Knuckles theme is based on the Boss theme instead. Regardless, because of this, it is possible that both tracks are done by the same person but once again, that is anything but confirmed. The Act 2 Boss theme is owned by SEGA. It is unknown who composed the track, though. The Big Arms theme is also owned by SEGA, having been remixed on various occasions, like Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood (2008), Sonic Generations, and Sonic Mania Adventures (2018). However, it is unknown who composed the track. The MJ team track that has the most known details is probably the S3 Credits, or Staff Roll theme, as Brad Buxer has told the story regarding it, and the MJ song Stranger in Moscow (1995). During the Dangerous World Tour, on September 14th 1993, while on tour in Moscow, Michael was feeling depressend and called Brad over to his room. Brad brought the 41 cues with him, intending on showing them to Michael. Michael didn't want to hear them and told Brad to "just play something." Brad then started playing the Credits theme he had written for Sonic 3, and added some improvisation to it. Michael loved it, and together they turned the track into Stranger in Moscow, in about an hour and a half time. This, of course, means that Brad wrote the Credits theme for Sonic 3. As mentioned earlier, Special Stage is composed by Yoshiaki Kashima. One thing worth noting regarding this sound, though, is that this song is repurposed from SEGASonic Bros. (1992), a game that was only available for a brief period of time, exclusively in Japan. Finally, the last MJ team track, Competition Menu. Once again, though, the composer is unknown. Azure Lake is owned by SEGA, but the composer is unknown. Balloon Park is owned by SEGA. It was remixed in Sonic Generations as Mission 2 (as a combined arrangement together with Sonic Heroes (2003)'s Quick Race) and Mission 4 (Balloon Park alone). Mission 2 credits composition to "Jun Senoue & SEGA", Jun composed Quick Race after all. Where things get interesting, though, is Mission 4. Mission 4, which is just Balloon Park, also credits "Jun Senoue & SEGA" for composition. Either this implies Jun composed Balloon Park, or it is a copy-paste oversight. Aside from game of origin (and possibly composer), Mission 2 and Mission 4 have the exact same set of credits (Remixer, Performers, Engineer). If Jun were the composer for Balloon Park, wouldn't he simply be credited as just "Jun Senoue" and not "Jun Senoue & SEGA"? When asked about Balloon Park on Twitter, Jun replied specifically with "What I can say is... all the music was composed by Sega.", neither confirming nor denying that he composed the track. So, there is evidence for Jun being the composer, there is no actual proof that it's him. The composer remains unknown. [https://media.vgm.io/albums/97/29979/29979-1326315044.jpg] [https://twitter.com/crush40/status/251310610644627456] Chrome Gadget is owned by SEGA. The composer is unknown. Desert Palace is owned by SEGA. The composer is unknown. Endless Mine is owned by SEGA. Endless Mine features a melody similar to Sonic Adventure 2 (2001)'s Escape From The City, which is composed by Jun Senoue. Cash Cash referenced the similarity in their remix of the track. Despite this, Jun has stated that the similarity is purely a coincidence, implying he did not compose Endless Mine. The composer is unknown. [https://twitter.com/crush40/status/433599505548595200] Regarding the Bonus Stages, during an interview with Jun Senoue, when asked about his involvement with Sonic 3, Jun mentioned he "did only 2 or 3 songs for Sonic 3", following that up by saying "Actually, the songs for bonus stage are mine". Directly confirming he did the music for the Bonus Stages. This also seems to imply Jun is in fact not responsible for Balloon Park. The Stage Clear, Game Over, and Continue jingles also appeared in Sonic 3D Blast. Sonic 3D Blast actually has a full composer & arranger breakdown hidden within the rom. This breakdown reveals that these three jingles are all by Jun Senoue. That's everything regarding Sonic 3, but that is just one half of the story. As everyone knows, the game got split into two, with the second part being Sonic & Knuckles. Because the two games were originally planned to be one game, and as seen in prototype builds of Sonic 3, the music for Sonic & Knuckles' stages was already composed. No MJ team music appears in (stand-alone) Sonic & Knuckles. This is also why the MJ team members don't appear in the credits for S&K. Instead, Howard Drossin is now listed under the "Composers" section. This, however, does not mean all the music in S&K is by Howard Drossin. Under Howard's name is still the rest of the credits that also appeared in S3, SEGA Sound Team and the Sound Special Thanks with CUBE CORP.. Like in Sonic 3, the majority of the music is composed by SST and CUBE. Howard Drossin did compose some music, but all the stage themes are by SEGA & CUBE. Before we get into that, though, I'll talk more about Howard Drossin. At some point between March, when the S3 MJ deal was made, and August of 1993, Howard Drossin joined SEGA Technical Insitute as a composer. When he joined SEGA, one of the first things he was told was that he was "going to be working with Michael Jackson." Later, though, presumably in August when the accusations against Michael came out, he was told he wouldn't get to work with MJ. But before this, Howard's first project at SEGA was Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball (1993), for which he wrote a few songs. After being told he wouldn't get to work with MJ, Howard was asked to write some songs for Sonic & Knuckles. Because the majority of the soundtrack was already done, Howard only did a few tracks. The tracks he ended up doing were the S&K Title and Knuckles themes. Masaru Setsumaru arranged Howard's Title theme into various jingles in S&K. [https://segaretro.org/Interview:_Howard_Drossin_(2009-09-22)_by_Gamasutra] After having written the two tracks for S&K, Howard was tasked with creating an entire album that would have been sold at the SEGA Store in SEGA VirtuaLand, an amusement center located in the Luxor Hotel, Las Vegas, USA, which would open a month later, on the 15th of October 1993. This album wouldn't end up releasing until 1996, with the name Virtual Sonic, as a part of the SEGA Tunes album series. Because Howard only had one month to create the album, he would end up reusing, and expanding upon his S&K compositions. These tracks appear on the album as "Knucklemania" and "Sonic and Knuckles Theme". As well as reusing his S&K compositions, he also used some of the Sonic Spinball tracks he wrote. After Virtual Sonic, Howard would work on a few more SEGA projects, before leaving the company in 1996. He would get to work on Sonic one more time, though. For Sonic and the Black Knight (2009), Jun Senoue, who was the sound director of the title, got back into contact with Howard and asked him if he would like to work on a few tracks for the game. So despite being listed at the top of the composer credits, Howard Drossin had minimal involvement with Sonic & Knuckles. Let's now go through S&K's tracks and take a look at who what we know regarding composer credits. Starting with the S&K Title theme, which, as mentioned before, is written by Howard Drossin. According to Howard, the different jingles derived from this track are arranged by Masaru Setsumaru. This is backed up by the previously-mentioned 3D Blast breakdown, which lists Howard as the composer of the 1up jingle (which is reused from S&K), while Setsu is listed as the arranger. The S&K Knuckles theme is also composed by Howard Drossin, as discussed before. Practically none of the stage themes have known composers, though. Mushroom Hill has no known credits. Flying Battery has no known credits. Sandopolis has no known credits. Lava Reef's composer is unknown, but Masayuki Nagao has mentioned that he arranged Act 2, like how he did for Hydro City Act 2. I discussed Sky Sanctuary way back, when talking about Angel Island. Because of the credits for the Sonic 10th Anniversary bonus CD, Yoshiaki Kashima is left as the only possible composer for the track. Sky Sanctuary is composed by Yoshiaki Kashima. Death Egg has no known credits. The S&K Act 1 Boss has no known credits. The Doomsday has no known credits either. The Credits theme, being a medley of the stage themes, has no known composer(s), but it's arranged by Masaru Setsumaru. And finally, I will mention the jingles that are reused from Sonic 1, so Drowning and the Chaos Emerald jingle. These jingles were handled by Yukifumi Makino, who was a sound programmer for Sonic 1. Makino's only official credit for composing the Drowning jingle comes from the booklet for ViViD SOUND × HYBRiD COLORS (2010), the original soundtrack for Sonic Colors (2010). No other album credits specifically him, only a general "SEGA" credit. Now, there's a few more tracks I would like to discuss. I mentioned the November '93 prototype of Sonic 3 before, and as I mentioned there, no MJ team tracks are present in that build. As pretty much everyone knows at this point, there were different tracks made that got replaced by the MJ team tracks. These tracks were also used in the Sonic & Knuckles Collection (1997), as well as Sonic Origins (2022). As of writing this, Sonic Origins has not released yet, but there is already a bunch of confusion about these specific tracks. I won't get into that situation here, simply because: 1. The collection isn't out yet, so I can't take a look at the music properly. And 2. We don't know enough details regarding these tracks, and Jun Senoue's involvement with Sonic Origins. However, I can talk about what we do do not know in regards to composers. In short, SEGA owns all these prototype tracks (CNZ, ICZ, LBZ, Credits, Competiton, and an unused theme), but the composers are unknown. This is, though, where Tomonori Sawada composing Crystal Egg from Sonic 2 8-bit comes into play. Crystal Egg shares a lot of similarities with proto-IceCap. Because of this, people believe Sawada is the composer for proto-IceCap. While a believable theory, there is no confirmation on whether this is true or not. All we know about these tracks is that they were composed by SEGA (and possibly CUBE CORP.), and not the MJ team. I know this was a long read, but I hope this clears up some of the confusion surrounding Sonic 3's music, and Michael Jackson's involvement. This is really just one long ramble about Sonic music, something I do more often. In fact, this entire ramble is based on a shorter ramble of mine regarding Sonic 3's music, based on people talking about Brad Buxer and Stranger in Moscow. If people like this, maybe I should do more of these rambles, or maybe you just skipped through all of this. Who knows? In case you did read through all of this, though. Thank you, I appreciate it.