When Akon worked on Sonic the Hedgehog
I just had to share this fun bit of Sonic trivia that gave me a good laugh today. (And you know it’s going to be good because Sonic the Hedgehog is involved. Sonic’s involvement is a must for trivia to be considered good in my book.)
This story begins with Sonic 1 and 2 for the Megadrive/Genesis. We’ll get to Akon later, rest assured. Now, the music for the first two Sonic games was written by Masato Nakamura. Nakamura was the lead composer for a popular J-pop band called Dreams Come True. I’d vaguely heard of Dreams Come True but hadn’t ever listened to them until recently. I shouldn’t have been surprised, given the early Sonics have easily some of the most iconic videogame music there is, that Dreams Come True look to be a really good band. I know basically nothing about J-pop but this group makes me want to know more about J-pop. They sound a bit like classic Michael Jackson but with a great female vocalist.
Here they are performing live in 2014. Look out for Nakamura on bass!
Around the time of Sonic 2’s release in 1992, it seems Nakamura decided to use a melody from Sonic 2 as the basis for a Dreams Come True song. The melody he used shows up in Sonic 2 in a few different places: it’s most developed form is in the ending music, but there’s a short form of it used in the options menu. Here’s the ending, which has the fullest version.
Personally I always liked this tune but have to admit it never jumped out to me as having potential to be a pop hit. Well that’s why I’m not a superstar music producer, clearly…
Is it cheesy? Sure, a bit. But all things considered, this is a cracking arrangement and performance. I find the English vocals by Miwa Yoshida especially impressive – she sounds completely comfortable and natural singing in English despite (presumably) not being a native speaker.
This would be a nice story on its own, but unfortunately I have promised Akon content, so here goes. More than 10 years after Sonic 2 and Sweet Dream (also known as Sweet Sweet Sweet), the game commonly referred to as Sonic ’06 saw a number of bands and acts hired to record songs for the soundtrack. The results are both amusing and cringeworthy, like with one of the game’s main themes performed by Zebrahead:
Zebrahead remind us here in the chorus, lest we ever forget: in Sonic’s world, life is an open book and compromise does not exist. Sega knew that, which is why they hired then-superstar Akon to remix Sweet Dream by Dreams Come True for Sonic ’06!
In this one remix everything comes full circle. The scales have fallen from my eyes and life suddenly seems somehow complete.
14 years after Masato Nakamura walked away from the Sonic series, he returned (in a fashion) for this oddity of a game. To recap: a song from Sonic 2 was arranged and performed by a Japanese band. Akon covered the band’s song and contributed those ridiculous autotuned vocals that made him a household name in the mid 00s. Sega then put the end result in Sonic ’06 and a trivia is born.
That is an interesting little factoid, never having played the game I wouldn’t have caught that. Although, I think I much prefer the original. Akon’s and the rest of the vocalists… aren’t exactly making that song shine.
I also greatly prefer the Dreams Come True version to listen to. Akon’s version honestly I think could be good if it weren’t for Akon’s vocals – the autotuned “yeah”s, “ey”s, “woo”s and “remix”s in an earnest ballad are what I find amusing and give it a borderline parody feel.
This is completely impossible of course, but I would’ve loved to hear someone like Prince cover this track.
It seems strange considering the musicians involved in the Sonic games and the music used in the games. The Bridge level in the first Sonic game on the Master System and Game Gear used the same music as one of Janet Jackson’s songs, Michael Jackson wrote some of the music for Sonic 3 on the Mega Drive and Akon remixed a song for another Sonic game. Those 3 artists performed pop music that was influenced by R and B. I would not consider any of the soundtracks used in the 2-dimensional Sonic games to fit into any genre of music, instead they just seemed to be computer game music and were primarily used to create an atmosphere relevant to the different levels used in the games. In my experience of the 3-dimensional Sonic games (mostly Sonic Adventure, Sonic Heroes and Sonic and the Secret Rings), the music used sounded more like either rock music or bubblegum pop music. It seems strange that the developers of Sonic would use artists associated with one genre of pop music, but decide to use a very different style of music in the games. I also enjoyed the ending music for Sonic 2 on the Mega Drive, I thought it began with a melancholy sound, before sounding more triumphant in the end, so I was also surprised that it was used for a romantic pop song.
Do you think it is strange that certain artists are used to create music, but a different genre is used in the soundtrack?
It is interesting for sure. I’ve heard that Nakamura, when he was composing the original Sonic games, wrote the music as if the games were films. I think that’s why most of the tracks don’t sound like Dreams Come True tracks “computer-ized”, like you say for the most part they tend to be more atmospheric and environment themed. There were a few adaptations though for pop music, like the above Sweet Dreams song. Here is another Dreams Come True track that is clearly based on the music from Starlight Zone: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uN6xLKE9zoM
In the 3D Sonic games they got bands and acts who perform in their own style and sound like themselves. Having said that the bands they’ve used in 3D Sonic games do tend to have lyrics that are directly relevant to the game. Oh how I wish I could forget that annoying “seven rings in hand” track from Sonic and the Secret Rings!