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Friday, April 12, 2024

In loving memory of Daft Punk

Remembering the electronic music duo’s biggest hits, and honoring their lesser known but just as groovy tracks 

By ANGIE CUMMINGS — arts@theaggie.org

 

It has been approximately one year and a week since we lost the world’s most beloved French robot musical duo: Daft Punk. Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, the artists behind the masks, announced the end of their decade-spanning musical career together on Feb. 22, 2021, and as we go into March 2022, their songs have not lost any cultural relevance. 

While the depths of their vast discography might not be well known to everyone, Daft Punk is anything but obscure. The first songs of theirs that come to mind are typically their collaborations with huge names in music over the past 20 years or so, most notably Pharrell, Kanye West and The Weeknd. These include some radio and Billboard hits that we have grown up with and deserve to be revisited again and again. 

Going all the way back to 2001 (were you even born yet?), Daft Punk released a piece of music that arguably rivals Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in its historic levels of auditory perfection and general impact. This song is none other than “Harder Better Faster Stronger,” with a whopping 12 unique words repeated in different orders, tones and speeds. Listening to this song has been known to cause anything from a slight head nod or a shoulder bounce to a full mind-body-and-soul ascension into another dimension. The song builds up, taking twists and turns that never cease to excite and somehow metaphysically scratch that itch at the back of your brain. “Harder Better Faster Stronger” is a perfect song in every way. It is at this point that I must disclose that I personally know next to nothing about the technicalities of music production.

While this almost five minute long loop of a few words may not have affected the vast majority of listeners, it is almost impossible to have not heard the sound before as it was prominently used in Kanye West’s hit “Stronger” (2007). Of course, West is an incredibly controversial figure today, but there is no denying his knack for making music — especially on his critically acclaimed third album, “Graduation,” on which this is one of the top songs. This song solidified Daft Punk’s place in the burgeoning future of genre-transcending music in the 21st century. 

Perhaps the next huge Daft Punk song that was played far past enjoyment on the radio and at school dances was “Get Lucky” featuring Pharell & Nile Rogers (2013). Having almost a decade of respite since that song took over, and revisiting it with fresh ears, there is no wonder why it basically achieved world domination for a while. Pharrell really could not have said it better: We are all in fact “up all night for good fun.” Maybe it is just odd middle school nostalgia, but the groove of this song makes you feel light and airy with a nice sprinkling of swag. 

From the same album as “Get Lucky” came another impeccable song that might not have had the same immense cultural impact, but still seamlessly blended Daft Punk’s genius with the vocals of a big name in music. “Instant Crush,” featuring Julian Casablancas, the lead singer of The Strokes, is one of those songs that you can listen to once, suddenly realize it is almost over and need to replay it just because there is too much goodness in (what feels like) such a short time. As it happens with many Strokes songs, just listening to the sound of Casablancas’ voice makes for a full yet relaxed experience, but choosing to pay attention to the lyrics makes the song cut that much deeper. 

Most recently, Daft Punk returned to the collective consciousness with their features on The Weeknd’s show-stopping singles “I Feel It Coming” and the album’s titular track “Starboy” (2016). Similar to what happened with “Get Lucky” three years earlier, it was incredibly hard to escape the clutches of these singles for most of 2016 and 2017 — and again, this was for good reason. This album marked the beginning of The Weeknd’s distinctly ‘80s and synth-filled R&B style that he has continued to evolve for the past six years, and with Daft Punk’s expertise on all things synth and electronic, these two singles are some of the most delicious-sounding songs to flood our airwaves in a long time. 

Even in their very first album from 1997 there are classics like “Around the World” and “Da Funk” — a lyricless, electronic and funky five and a half minutes of fun. In all honesty, there are countless other Daft Punk songs from the depths of their discography that I could praise for far too long, but the point is Daft Punk has hits worth the hype as well as some equally strong hidden gems. 

After a long year of grieving our loss of any future Daft Punk releases, the duo took to social media on the anniversary of their breakup, which also happened to be the 25th anniversary of their debut album, “Homework” (1997). They posted cryptic messages before re-releasing a new edition of “Homework” as well as posting a special streaming of a concert from 1997 (sans helmets) to their now vacant Twitch account

This momentary return begs the question: Will we be lucky enough to hear new Daft Punk creations in the future? Whether or not they return, the world is forever indebted to these French robots for some of the most delectable and fresh mixes, collaborations and original creations. 

 

Written by: Angie Cummings — arts@theaggie.org

 

 

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