When I was younger, I was sitting in my grandmother’s living room watching middle-of-the-day MTV on a weekend. It was then when I first saw Daft Punk‘s video for ‘Around the World’ directed by Michel Gondry. The video has mummies, synchronized swimmers, people in skeleton outfits, and tall gray men all-dancing as different instrumentation to parts of the song. I will never forget the first time I heard that infectious baseline and those three words. I was hooked! In trying to find that song, maybe a friend of mine in school had a 30-second clip of it. Tried to find it on the radio – nobody was playing it. Little did I know, that song would begin my love for electronic music.
There have been so many stories like mine where Daft Punk, aka Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo have been the entry point to where people have explored the ever-expansive genre of electronic music. Think about how many times you’ve been to a festival and heard ‘One More Time’ off of 2001’s Discovery. Or even the last calls or celebratory instances in your life that you’ve heard that song. In a music industry that predicates so much off of the image and the frequency in which you release things, Daft Punk did it completely their way. From the trademark robot helmets to the range of years between releases averaged around a four-year gap (until 2005’s Human After All and 2013’s Random Access Memories, which was eight).
Each album sounds different from the other. A rawness sits in 1997’s Homework that is reminiscent of old nightclubs. Discovery is an expansion of the duo’s songwriting picking from disco, pop, and R&B. 2005’s Human After All honed in on heavy guitars with a song like ‘Robot Rock.” 2013’s Random Access Memories is an album that you can chill and vacation. Now, what will be their last album was created with no clear plan in mind. Not to forget the amazing soundtrack and score that they did for 2010’s Tron: Legacy. I remember being at 2013’s Coachella and there being rumors of Daft Punk possibly playing a secret set at one point. My friends and I thought of every artist they would pop up with. Maybe they’ll be at Phoenix or perhaps Pharrell‘s set? Maybe the Sahara tent will have some time allotted that we were missing, and they would show up. What we got was a teaser for Random Access Memories.
Maybe I was a little bummed because I was too young to go see the 2007 Alive tour that many still rave about until this day. Daft Punk wasn’t exactly known for their robust touring schedule, so to even have a chance was like finding gold. Even though we struck out that weekend, we got the single, ‘Get Lucky,’ which would become an anthem of that spring and summer. It’s not just the songs they gave us, but it’s the artists and songs they inspired. From Kanye West‘s ‘Stronger’ sample from ‘Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger,’ to Busta Rhymes’s ‘Touch It’ that drew from ‘Technologic.’ Most recently, producing The Weeknd’s singles, ‘Starboy’ and ‘I Feel It Coming’ in 2016. Even though they weren’t putting out music of their own, they were still very much part of the makeup. Charts and music tastes can be fickle, but Daft Punk always felt like they were impervious to it. Like the robot helmets, they dawned, starting with the Discovery era, their presence felt otherworldly. As if they were space travelers that would drop by and give us something to dance to from time to time.
28 years is a long time to be a musician unit. Think about it – their last album went number one on the charts and got them an Album of the Year Grammy. ‘Get Lucky’ won Record of The Year. That’s the closest to a musical walk-off home run as you can get. The electronic music world is still mourning the sudden tragic loss of producer/singer/songwriter SOPHIE. It doesn’t feel great to lose another pillar that brought so many to the world of French Electro. There’s solace in them going out on of their own volition, as maybe there was nothing else to conquer. They didn’t let the music pass them by, as the music grew as they grew and dance moves to their music will continue. The robots are gone, but the men behind the masks are here to witness what they gave to the world. We’ll continue to be in love with the mystery of the band and the sounds they left us.
The fashion that Daft Punk’s breakup happened is probably the most apropos of the duo to go out. An announcement on a random Monday morning with no explanation.
Photo Credit: David Black