Review Summary: You're too slow.
Sonic R is a racing game originally released in 1997 for the Sega Saturn, featuring characters from the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise. The game's soundtrack was composed by now-renowned video game music composer Richard Jacques, with vocals from British singer Teresa Jane (TJ) Davis. The OST contains what I consider to be the seven main songs – which are full-length and have vocals – as well as short clips from the title and options screen, and the pre-race and post-race jingles. The 2014 digital release of the soundtrack also contains instrumental versions of six of the seven main songs.
Sonic R contains five racetracks, and each of them has their own song, with lyrics that coincide (but not too much) with the theme of the track. For example, the song for the first track, Resort Island, is appropriately titled Can You Feel the Sunshine?
, and is about the sense of freedom one feels on a sunny day. Although the lyrical theme is appropriate for the track itself, the lyrics are general, make no mention of anything that would imply its having been written for a video game, and thus wouldn't do anything to alienate someone who listens to the tune without having played Sonic R. The same can be said for the other four racetrack songs. As for the ending credits number Number One
, while it does refer specifically to racing in the opening lines ("When the day is done / When the race is won / My life has only just begun"), the song ends up being about being number one not in the race, but rather in someone's heart ("All we need is love / For us to be together / 'Cause you're my number one"). The game's flagship song, Super Sonic Racing
, is very obviously about the game itself.
I would describe these compositions as techno/electronic synth-pop, and every bit as fast-paced as one would expect from a Sonic the Hedgehog game. A programmed hi-hat and snare carry the 80's-inspired dance-pop beats up to tempos fit for running (Sonic R is a foot-racing game by the way, not a vehicular racing game). Each of these songs also has a piano accompaniment that adds a big-city jazz vibe not only to the tune, but to each racetrack while playing the game. TJ Davis's vocals, arguably the most distinctive feature of these songs, are clear and concise, as well as having a curiously strong resonance of passion for having not written the lyrics herself (all lyrics were written by Jacques).
Does the Sonic R OST hold up as a standalone collection of music outside of the game? I can't answer the question objectively, as I had fallen in love with Sonic R (as well as its soundtrack) at a relatively young age. I do, however, think that the seven main songs are exceptionally well-written and well-performed pieces of music, and anyone who is interested in the style of these songs and capable of looking past a few in-lyric references to the game itself will thoroughly enjoy them. As for anyone who is a fan of the Sonic the Hedgehog series but hasn't played Sonic R, if you enjoy the high-octane music from the other games, I have no doubt that the Sonic R OST (and the game!) will be right up your alley.