Daft Punk: Human After All
Henry Hood gives a requiem for one of the greatest music duos.
‘literally the only way DJs lose fans is by saying dumbass stuff. how do you think daft punk has been famous for 24 years? they don’t talk’
The above quote is a tweet often associated with Daft Punk. From 1993 to 2021 their media presence has been impeccable, and although their costume designs may be flashy, they’ve achieved what most artists would dream of: being famous for their music.
Their musical career began in 1992 as part of a rock trio named Darlin’, and in 1993 split and became the duo we know today. The name ‘Daft Punk’ came from a dismissive review of Darlin’s tracks, labelling their music ‘dafty punk thrash’. Evidently, their electronic spin on rock wasn’t a hit back then, but the pair in hindsight have proved the critic wrong. In 1995, they released their first album ‘Homework’, which shot the pair into the limelight in the electronic scene. The songs ‘Da Funk’ and ‘Around the World’ should probably be recognisable even if you aren’t an avid Daft Punk like myself.
On 9/9/1999, they officially ‘became robots’. A bizarre story of their synthesizer exploding and sparking all over their studio was given as an excuse for their new look, but anonymity was the unofficial and widely-assumed reason. 2001 saw the release of ‘Discovery’ which pushed them into the mainstream, and this album contains their most recognisable hits such as ‘One More Time’ and ‘Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger’. This album was Daft Punk’s way of ‘revolutionising’ the music industry, proving to the world that an award-winning album can really be produced electronically in a bedroom.
‘Human After All’ dropped in 2005 and wasn’t as popular as any of their other releases. The song ‘Robot Rock’ is relatively famous for it’s recognisable riff, but the problem was it wasn’t anything new. But if there were any doubts about the pioneering creativity of the Paris-born duo were utterly proved wrong by their infamous 2006 Coachella performance. Amidst the rising uptake in EDM music, Daft Punk pulled off a live performance that captivated a Californian crowd at one of the biggest festivals in the world. EDM was now mainstream.
Collaborations with Kanye West on his album ‘Yeezus’ and the production of Disney’s TRON 2 soundtrack gave plonked their music firmly in the public eye. The electronic style they had perfected was the new sound of the future. Amongst other artists, Daft Punk had effectively revolutionised the music industry, which is a rare statement to make.
Then, ‘Random Access Memories’ was released. In a rare interview with BBC Radio One, they explained how they’d grown tired of the ‘sound of the future’ and wanted to try something new. That something new involved getting rid of sampling in their music production, and live recording every single bit of the songs. Nile Rodgers of Chic was brought in for his famous ‘chucking’ guitar style, and the end result was a timeless album. It’s timeless in the sense that it belongs to no exact century or era of music, and the fact that Daft Punk made such a universally-celebrated album using a style that was so far removed from the rest of the music industry and popular songs at the time. In a post-album podcast, Pharrell Williams said ‘Random Access Memories’ was designed to appeal to everyone and anyone, of any age or any background; it was just universally good music.
And now, in the present day, they’ve split up. Looking back at their career which constantly pushed the boundaries of the music industry, it’s understandable that they’ve decided to end the band. Their lacklustre feedback from ‘Human After All’, the only album where they didn’t change their style, is probably an indicator that they only want to release music that is ‘new’ in some way. Perhaps they felt they’d taken their music as far as they wanted to, and after revolutionising music by proving it could be produced with and without computers, decided they were happy to call it quits.
Their poignant breakup video offers no drama, no hint of bitter feelings, or anything nasty at all. It’s their way of peacefully leaving the Daft Project. Both Guy-Manuel and Thomas Bangalter are artists in their own right, and it’s understood that they are now pursuing personal projects away from the limelight. So, sadly, the rumours of a new album, collab-album with Frank Ocean, and a TRON 3 soundtrack will now never come true. But we are left with music spanning over 30 years of styles and an example of the perfect way to manage your public image. And that, as an artist, is the perfect thing to be remembered for.