Daft Punk

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About Daft Punk

Daft Punk may pretend to be robots—the members’ gleaming cyborg helmets are among the most recognizable silhouettes in modern music—but it’s the French duo’s warm, clearly human hearts that make them so beloved. Few acts have done as much to translate electronic music’s sometimes arcane pleasures to pop’s broadly universal contours. Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter met in school and played briefly in rock band Darlin’ with future Phoenix member Laurent Brancowitz. Shortly after, in 1993, the two regrouped as Daft Punk, trading their guitars for synths and samplers, and paying homage to the silky, hypnotic thump of Chicago house. The duo’s innovation was to take the wriggly, rough-hewn style—a descendent of disco, rooted in Black and queer communities in America’s cities—and sand down its edges, giving looped funk basslines both sensuous heft and Gallic panache. Such sound sculpture helped give birth to French Touch, a wildly influential production style whose luxe detailing continues to resonate through dance music decades later. But Daft Punk didn’t linger on its creation; its next two albums, 2001’s Discovery and 2005’s Human After All, largely abandoned house and disco in favor of audacious sample flips from obscure ’70s rock and funk—and minted a fair number of classics in the process. With songs like “One More Time,” Daft Punk proved its unrivaled ear for a platinum hook; a cut like “Robot Rock”, meanwhile, was pure alchemy, turning a forgotten hard-rock obscurity into an unforgettable anthem. Not only did Daft Punk help popularize electronic music, but its legendary 2006 Coachella performance from inside a neon pyramid helped set the stage for EDM’s turn toward hi-def spectacle in the 2010s. Yet once again, even as the culture was trending in one direction, the duo feinted left: Its 2013 album, Random Access Memories, released at the height of the EDM boom, all but abandoned obvious digital trappings in favor of slinky organic disco played by real human musicians. Daft Punk introduced Italo icon Giorgio Moroder to a new generation that hadn’t even been born by his ’70s heyday, helping kick off the decade’s disco revival; with Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers, it came up with the joyful, effervescent “Get Lucky,” a song so effortlessly delectable that hearing it for the first time was like being reacquainted with a childhood friend. What’s remarkable is that it’s just as powerful on the umpteenth listen. In 2021, the duo announced its breakup after 28 years together, but that has hardly meant the end of the Daft Punk story. A 10th-anniversary edition of Random Access Memories came with 35 minutes of unreleased music. Also, in 2023, a Random Access Memories (Drumless Edition) offered a new iteration on the group’s final studio album. For these robots, it seems, shutting down the operating system is never final.

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