When I first saw the news that Steve Aoki was going to host a Sonic the Hedgehog virtual concert last week, I was ecstatic to hear another artist declare their love for the blue blur and express that through music. At the time, Sega announced that the DJ would play a healthy balance of his original songs and remixes of fan-favorite Sonic tracks like Green Hill Zone, Chemical Plant Zone, Stardust Speedway Zone, and god-willing, songs from Sonic Adventure onward. Fast forward one week later, and the quality of his performance has left me gobsmacked.
Because Sega decided to incorporate Facebook-like AR elements into the virtual concert, forcing viewers to move the camera 180 to 360 degrees, it sucked trying to watch it on my laptop, and it sucked harder trying to watch it on my phone. The AR elements were super uncomfortable, the dance animations for Sonic and the gang were inadequate, and Aoki played mostly songs from his own discography and only a single Sonic mix instead of delivering on his promise of balancing the two.
I hoped that Aoki's Sonic concert would play out as well as Post Malone's Pokemon 25th Anniversary virtual concert did back in February, but that turned out not to be the case. Whereas Post Malone paid a great deal of respect to Pokemon's legacy by turning himself into a CG avatar dancing around a floating platform taking him through various Pokemon landscapes, Aoki took the biggest shit on Sonic's by saying he would play remixes to a select few songs only to pull a 180 and blast only his songs as if he were at the Ultra Music Festival, leaving room for only a single Sonic track. I can understand he was trying to celebrate his 44th birthday, but he could've at least dedicated the set to both his own catalogue and that of Sonic's. I would've loved to hear his rendition of Escape From The City, Seaside Hill or Bullet Station.
From a pop culture perspective, Aoki playing only his music and leaving little to no room for Sonic after announcing he would pay a proper tribute to the blue blur has the same energy as the NFL announcing SpongeBob SquarePants and his band would play the iconic song Sweet Victory at the Super Bowl Halftime Show in 2019, only to have the characters open for Travis Scott instead — and not even three months after the death of Stephen Hillenburg. In doing so, he pulled a bait-and-switch on fans who were under the impression that his virtual concert would have Sonic music involved, as it should have.
The dance moves Sonic and his friends performed at the concert are just as bad. Sonic mostly jumped up and down, which I guess is typical of festival attendees, Tails clapped his hands on the ground like a kindergartener, Knuckles' idea of dancing was pounding his fists to the floor, and Amy only twisted and shifted her feet side to side with her mouth looking as wrinkled as someone's grandma. Everything was cringy and awkward.
The virtual concert became even more of a PR disaster when Dr. Eggman voice actor Mike Pollock got into a Twitter debate over Aoki's support for NFTs, which is why Sonic fans criticized Sega collaborating with the DJ in the first place. The Twitterstorm started with his sarcastic comment to Roger Craig Smith's birthday wish to the DJ, "But we can't appreciate someone's work or let them enjoy their birthday if we disagree with their opinions." Many fans took issue with this comment, criticizing him for not taking a stance on a technology that has been associated with environmental damage, scams, and art theft.
Crush 40 should have helmed the virtual concert, but Sega had already used the band for the Sonic 30th Anniversary Symphony orchestra in June. Better yet, the company should have left things at that. At least the orchestra held more passion for Sonic and his impact on the video game and entertainment industry than Aoki's concert did.
Where classical composers and rock bands came together and played the wonderful sounds of Sonic's past, present, and future in perfect harmony, Aoki just made everyone go deaf with his dissonant soundtrack. He doesn't love Sonic as much as he claimed to, he was just into the virtual concert gig for the money and those disgusting NFTs.
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