On February 22, 2021, Daft Punk shocked music lovers around the world with the announcement that they were splitting up after being together for 28 years. The French electronic duo consisting of Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter formed in the early ’90s and would go on to be hugely influential, with their reach extending way beyond just the dance world. In this week’s instalment of What’s Going On, we’re going to do things a little different than usual and in lieu of breaking down the hottest new music releases, we’re going to look back at some of the biggest and most important songs from Daft Punk’s lengthy career. Dust off your robot helmet and let’s get into the best of Daft Punk.
The first Daft Punk single to cross over into the mainstream. Originally released in 1995 as a 12-inch single to little fanfare, “Da Funk” was given new life thanks to a major label re-release after the duo was signed to Virgin Records in 1996. If you watched music videos on TV in the ’90s (which now seems like such a foreign concept), you definitely remember the disturbing, captivating and oddly heartwarming Spike Jonze-directed music video for “Da Funk.” Featuring the trials and tribulations of Charles, an anthropomorphic dog-man who is new to the bustle of New York City, it would go on to be recognized as one of the best videos of the decade.
The Chemical Brothers – “Life Is Sweet” (Daft Punk Remix)
In addition to recording and producing their own music, Daft Punk are also well known for their remixes for other artists, a great early example of that is their remix of “Life Is Sweet” for The Chemical Brothers. Keeping very little traces of The Chemical Brothers’ 1995 single intact, Daft Punk’s remix was totally transformative. Sounding so fresh and unlike much of what was on the dance charts at the time, their remix of “Life Is Sweet” served as a taste of what was to come from Daft Punk. Despite being released so early in their career, I wouldn’t hesitate in calling it the essential Daft Punk remix.
“Around The World”
If reading the song title “Around The World” didn’t conjure up memories of the song for you, I suggest listening to the track immediately. The follow-up single to “Da Funk”, “Around The World” cemented Daft Punk as being one of the hottest dance acts in the world at the time and proved that the duo wouldn’t just be another of the plethora of flash in the pan electronic artists that would fade away after the success of their big hit dies down. The magic of this French house track is in the simplicity, with its memorable bassline, the chant of “around the world” and repetitive nature.
Stardust – “Music Sounds Better With You”
A one-off Daft Punk side project resulted in the creation of one of the most enduring dance hits of 1998. Stardust consisted of singer Benjamin Diamond, DJ Alan Braxe, and Daft Punk’s Thomas Bangalter. “Music Sounds Better With You” was built around a sample of Chaka Khan’s track “Fate” from 1981, but it’s Diamond’s infectious vocal that elevates the song into a certified earworm. Despite being offered by Virgin Records to record a Stardust album, the trio declined and continued to work on their other pursuits. “Music Sounds Better With You” would go on to be used in “Music Sounds Better with U” by boy band Big Time Rush in 2011 but the less said about that the better.
“One More Time”
Though it was recorded and completed in 1998, “One More Time” wasn’t released until late in 2000. For what it’s worth, “One More Time” was lauded by Rolling Stone as being one of their top 100 songs of the 2000s and one of the 500 greatest songs of all time. The tastefully autotuned vocals of late DJ & singer Romanthony lent an authentically funky feel to “One More Time.” Iconic is a word that gets thrown around far too liberally these days but it definitely applies to the animated music video for the song which would later become part of Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5star 5ystem, the accompanying anime film representation of Daft Punk’s Discovery album.
In 2005, Daft Punk released their third studio album Human After All. Unlike their first two albums, Human After All was met by a largely mixed reaction with many critics and fans taking issue with the duo leaning so far into hard-edged robotic sounds and imagery and eschewing a lot of the fun organic elements that were present on Homework and Discovery. The album’s second single was the instant earworm “Technologic.” A portion of the vocals, “Touch it, bring it, pay it, watch it. Turn it, leave it, start – format it”, would receive new life thanks to being sampled in Busta Rhymes’ 2005 single “Touch It” and its subsequent remixes.
“Get Lucky” ft. Pharrell Williams
Daft Punk’s fourth and final studio album Random Access Memories saw the duo channeling the late 1970s and early 1980s. The track that best encapsulates what they were going for is “Get Lucky”, the album’s lead single. Co-written with Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers and with Pharrell on vocals, the 2013 smash hit felt like a major throwback to the sound of Nile Rodgers’ band Chic. Much like Pharrell’s other 2013 release “Happy”, “Get Lucky” became ubiquitous to the point of being inescapable. Despite receiving a ton of commercial and critical success at the time, “Get Lucky” isn’t looked back on particularly fondly by a vocal group of Daft Punk fans, however, there is no denying its impact.
The Weeknd – “I Feel It Coming” ft. Daft Punk
To date, The Weeknd’s 2016 song “I Feel It Coming” holds the distinction of being Daft Punk’s final single. Created as the result of the Canadian crooner’s friendship with Daft Punk, the pair presented The Weeknd with the instrumental track and let him write the lyrics. “I Feel It Coming” would become a huge hit, peaking at #4 in the US and #1 in France as well as receiving mass critical acclaim. A disco-tinged affair, “I Feel It Coming” feels like it wouldn’t have been out of place on Daft Punk’s 2013 album Random Access Memories. If you close your eyes, you could even envision how Pharrel would sound on it. Daft Punk would also collaborate with The Weeknd on “Starboy” his album’s hedonistic lead single and title track.