A requiem for Daft Punk: the avant gardes of electronic dance music

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Photo: Matt Sayles—Invision/AP Images

Electronic duo Daft Punk

By Soleil Easton

The endangered Parisian robot duo, Daft Punk, has gone extinct, announcing the decision on Monday via an eight-minute sequence dubbed “Epilogue,” taken from their 2006 film, Electroma. Kathryn Frazier, Daft Punk’s longtime publicist, confirmed the breakup to Rolling Stone, but declined to provide any details on the split. 

The universal pop stars had their appeal—an appeal my friends and I were instantly drawn to. I’ll never forget the night my girlfriends and I squished into my tiny Volvo and took a drive through West Hollywood to cure my broken heart. We took turns climbing through the sunroof, staring up at the neon rainbow lights and golden kitchen glows while blasting “Lose Yourself to Dance.”

Or the time I spent clubbing in Berlin like it was my last night on earth, while the DJ was toying with remixes of Daft Punk’s top hits as the dry-ice smoke swirled an array of blues, acid greens, and hot pinks. The music boomed over the dance floor as if it had merged with the bodies.

Or even the time I eagerly lined up at my hometown record store with my dad to grab a copy of the most recent album, “Random Access Memories”, released on May 17, 2013, when it went on sale at midnight. We munched on our late-night In-N-Out snack and danced around the living room, much like how the vinyl spun on the turntable. 

It’s safe to say we “got lucky” with Daft Punk. 

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The mystifying, influential electronic-pop duo goes against most of what history’s taught us about American pop audiences’ taste. For Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo’s, the two men behind the masks of Daft Punk, their music is based on the repetitive structures of French house music, blended with synth-pop and experimental 80s disco. 

The vocal elements in their songs are so carefully engineered and produced, that their music could almost qualify as instrumental. Their euphoric sound is above anything else on the pop charts, and truly defines the genre of French electronic music. 

Over the course of their nearly three-decade run, they made three gold albums in the U.S., along with a wall-full of gold and platinum awards from other countries. Their 1997 debut album, “Homework,” was an instant favorite, featuring hit singles like “Da Funk” and “Around the World.

Daft Punk’s 2001 follow-up album, “Discovery,” had a handful of classics, including “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger”— later sampled by Kanye West — “One More Time,” and “Face to Face.” It was around this time the two began wearing their trademark robot helmets and black suits that finalized their iconic look. 

In 2005, the pair released “Human After All,” and toured extensively in the two years after. In 2006 they headlined at America’s biggest music festival, Coachella, where they performed atop an elaborate LED-encrusted pyramid. Daft Punk’s performances are some of the most talked-about concerts of the past decade. 

In the years that followed, E.D.M. DJs and producers became a billion-dollar industry, leading Daft Punk to leave their robotic dance music that led them to their fame. For “Random Access Memories,” the group played instruments (including drums) by hand, rather than sequenced and recorded to tape. 

They’ve collaborated with a wide range of guest musicians, including acid-techno icons like Giorgio Moroder and Chic’s Nile Rodger, to modern pop stars like Pharrel Williams and Julian Casablancas.

Get Lucky,” the single album featuring Williams, goes down as the groups’ most successful song to date, hitting No. 2 for six weeks on the Billboard Hot 100. In 2016, Daft Punk achieved their first and only No. 1 as guests on “Starboy” by the Weeknd, which they performed at the Grammys in 2017, along with another collaboration, “I Feel It Coming.”

As heartbreaking as it is to see the Daft Punk era come to an end, the duo gave us incredible music and will surely be missed by many. In my abrupt transition to life in a new big city freshman year, Daft punk helped bring life to my otherwise concrete experience of Boston—and will continue to during my last few months here. 

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