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Which exactly is the Sonic Music Genre before the Adventure Era?


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Wear those headphones right, Sonic!

Well, I just posted a status asking for this same question, but now I notice how much arguments I have and how far this discussion can go, so I think a topic might be useful now.

Recently browsing through Discogs (Possibly the biggest resource for all kinds of Music in the World, if you unknown it), I went to look out for a few Sonic albums specially those released before the Adventure Era (Then, from 1991-1997), taking as result the games from SEGA Genesis, Master System, SEGA CD and Saturn.

In fact, as strict listening to Sonic music from 2013-2015 and personally, never cared much about which genre that was, I mainly classified as Rock assuming the importance Crush 40 had in the Soundtrack but I knew that different sounds like Cash Cash and Julien-K, for example, were more Electronic than properly Rock.

However, and I think not just me, we never cared much for the musics prior to Sonic Adventure, for many reasons; in short, because the Video Game quality wasn't as good as real musical record until the 6th Generation and because it really didn't had much to show off. Alright, we can assume we listened more often to tracks like You Can Do Anything and Super Sonic Racing then properly to Hill Top Zone music.

For this reason I assume I never knew how exactly classify it. If I worked today on a Music Store I would call it as “Video Game Music”. This possibly could finish the discussion, but there's a few more details to explore.

First all, I think we can easily say that Video Game Music is a sub-genre of Electronic Music as House, Trance, Dubstep and even Chiptune. So assuming this, let's take a look into practical content:


I think Chemical Plant Zone is one of the most electronic track of the era (Any reasons to relate it to Chemical Brothers). And I think it pretty covers the idea of the zone well, a high-tech Chemical Factory with acids all around, so nothing better then some futuristic sound here.

Sidenote here: We must remember that, in this time period, general electronic music movements and all that rave things were growing up, specially in Europe and slightly less in the U.S. (Chemical Brothers were only one of them).

Backing into Sonic, if Sonic 2 was released today, no doubt levels like Chemical Plant and Metropolis would have some heavy electronic sounds, but how about levels like Emerald Hill and Hill Top which nothing relates with Urban/Industry/Futuristic things? Likely would be recreated with some natural sounds, tranquility melodies and even what we call Ambient music (Which is also a sub genre of electronica).

Sidenote²: Actually since the 40's, Electronic music has been a very handy-tool for industry in general. Even if you're not an Electronic music fan, there's a huge possibly that relaxing tune you have been listening to were made on synthesizers or mixed by a DJ. To avoid this misinterpretation, I'll take as Electronic music any piece of music which can't be done with other “real” instruments/sounds.

Said that, I think there's a few more musical works to we check out.


The first one is Super Sonic Dance Attack, a, in somewhat unknown, DJ mix with sounds of the Sonic series and Streets of Rage series. This would be the real kind of stuff I would call as Electronic. Can't confirm if it's official, but most Sonic communities mentions it.

As said a while ago, in this period lots of electronic projects were popping-up all around, and many of them had a past in common, Kraftwerk. As also already mentioned, after the 40's electronic sounds became very handy to work with, being on a simple melody in the background of the song or like the beep-bops the old computers liked to say, but it was only in the 70's a group of guys decided to take that to the mainstream and do “real” music with them.

With the time, Kraftwerk collected some success as Das Model, Autobahn or Die Roboter and it's often compared as “The Beatles of Electronic Music”. But that's not the main point, where I want to reach is here. This is a remix of the track “Die Roboter” (Click on the link if you never listened to it) in a chiptune style released on the official album “The 8-Bits Operators”. This is how I would classify an Electronic Music and how it's the 8/16-bit counterpart.


Sidenote³: Well, I just reminded this one while reviewing the text. Sonic 1 & 2 once had their demos unveiled. The discogs page still mentions it as electronic, however the original final theme is classified as J-Pop. None of them for me seems right, but definitely all the tracks aren't J-Pop.

Reaching now the final point, we can even says that all non mp3 quality stuff are Electronic (Assuming it were made on synthesizers to electronic hardwares), but and the MEGA/SEGA CD and Saturn Stuff? Alright, I'm not gonna analyze the levels songs because it pretty much the same of SEGA Genesis/Master System, but when we talk about main tracks like You Can Do Anything and Super Sonic Racing?


They aren't chiptune-like anymore to be an excuse to call them Electronic plus have some real lyrics here (It's not just some background vocals as seen in most Sonic CD levels or even Launch Base). In fact, my biggest doubt is here. They could easily be sold as any other song in the market, but what would be the genre of these? Would be Electronic the right genre?

Well, Since 2015 I've merge deeper into Julien-K stuff and since 2018 even deeper into Techno/Trance stuff. Saying that any of these Sonic tracks are Electronic is almost an offense (Not they are bad, but how different they are from the usual kind of thing we have). I could list here lots of examples on what we call Electronic music but may be useless, but having those arguments in hand, which exactly is the genre for the tracks before Sonic Adventure? Is Chiptune? Electronic? Does sang tracks still being electronic?

Just to mention, and actually a 4th Sidenote, this it would be what I call as a real Electronic music in the Sonic series:

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I apologize for answering your excellent post with such an uneducated reply. I'm not exactly a musical student, so my terminology will be off.

But I think "video game music" can be an appropriate term for the 8-bit and 16-bit console compositions. After all, what genre would you call the Super Mario Brothers soundtrack? So much of those songs are defined by the software limitations, crafted into being to work on those specific machines.

Apart from that, you can certainly hear the influence of early '90s pop within those games. As you stated, industrial/urban levels have a heavy synthesizer techno feel. I think the most "dated" examples come from Sonic CD and Sonic 3, where even I find myself cringing at clumsy rap or pop samples. But some of my favorites fall in this category; I could listen to Flying Battery Zone for hours, singing along.

And yet... just as Sonic Adventure is more than just rock, so also is Classic Sonic more than just pop. Many of the zones carry an orchestral feel - zones such as Green Hill, Wing Fortress, and Sky Sanctuary. You specifically named Hill Top Zone, which I might describe as bluegrass.

In fact, one of the things that halfway bothers me about the Sonic Generations OST is how Sky Sanctuary and Rooftop Run have a more rhythmic, synthesizer sound to their Classic versions while having more gorgeous, orchestral remixes for their Modern versions. I guess it's fair. But really, our SEGA Genesis tried its best to convey that feeling with what it had.

I mean, it's video game music. This specific brand is identifiable by its  8- or 16-bit sound quality. It's deliberately designed to make you feel like you're in a jungle, or a dark cave, or a haunted pyramid, or a mechanical city, using a limited range of notes. There's a beauty to it.


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  • 4 weeks later...
  • 4 weeks later...


For Adventure, Isn't it mixed genres depending? Some of it had rock and jazz cues but it really depended on the level and character theme. Amy's theme is a little jazzy, Knuckles a little rap, Eggman is slightly industrial, Sonic's is rock, I THINK Tails's is pop(?), Shadow was straight up industrial no bones about it (all his themes are... and now I can't help but imagine him in rivethead gear). 

My best guess is: Experimental.

For Classic, it would be general video game music I would think? But I think a lot of it is inspired by Japanese pop at the time.

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A lot of Sonic 3&K would fall under new jack swing, quite easily. There are exceptions, however, as Sky Sanctuary is far from new jack swing, and Sonic 3’s final boss and Doomsday Zone falling more under rock.

Meanwhile, Sonic 1 and 2 is much more experimental in their sound, although the two games do experiment with the usual sound and conventions of Japanese pop songs.

Sonic CD leans even heavier into the Japanese sound with it’s funk and jazz style (if we’re talking the PAL/NTSC-J soundtrack), whereas the USA soundtrack is more orientated around a dance style.

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For Sonic 1 and 2? New Wave/R&B.


...or at least that's what Wikipedia pins Dreams Come True as, and for all intents and purposes Sonic 1 and 2's music is really just Dreams Come True music. Like even beyond Nakamura being part of the band, quite a few of the tracks very blatantly reference DCT songs - even outside of the outright intended one, Sweet Sweet Sweet in S2's ending. 


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  • 2 weeks later...
1 hour ago, sonic 1-derful said:

i appreciate the tribute, but I thought the bass keys for 'green hill zone' were off. they're crucial for driving the song. still, the fact that it's covered so much shows how timeless it is :) 

No, that link is a different one! Spring Yard Zone. :D

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  • 3 weeks later...

I'm not a big fan of heavy usage of synthesizers throughout the entire game  (Like you know, Sonic Forces) but if we are talking something like Julien-K or even some of Shadow's SA2 songs I would be open to that. As for music in the classic games I think the US soundtrack for CD is worth mentioning (tracks have a really unique feel and hugely add to the game's atmosphere) as well as Jun Senoue's work on Sonic and Knuckles. I have heard some guitar remixes of Sonic and Knuckles music and it actually works pretty well.

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14 hours ago, Badnik Zero said:

R&B from the 80s. I think this has Mania written all over it. I wonder what inspired Tee Lopes to find such an accurate style.


Holy shit, that is Sonic & Knuckles - Sonic Adventure era music! 

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