The Very Best of: Daft Punk
And so begins our first recurring completely-not-about-hockey series. Welcome to “The Very Best of,” in which we… wait, do you really need an explanation on this? Up first: The helmet-wearing, vocoder-rocking tandem of Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, better known as Daft Punk.
It’d be easy to just say, “One More Time,” thanks for stopping by everyone, please shuffle on to the next section, but what’s the fun in that? Let’s take a wider look at Daft Punk’s top tunes.
Too-obvious choice: “One More Time”
Maybe your brain flocked to “Get Lucky” here, and it certainly belongs in the conversation (why do we always take super successful singles for granted?), but the most obvious selection, to me, seems to be the aforementioned “One More Time,” the opening track off the band’s landmark 2001 album, Discovery. Selecting anything else here feels disingenuous.
Daft Punk hit No. 1 on the U.S. dance chart twice with their first studio album, Homework, but if you ask anyone the first song that comes to mind when you think of the band, “One More Time” would almost assuredly be the winner. Maybe it’s a different story if you’re polling the under-21 crowd, but it’s not like “One More Time” hit the scene then made a swift exit. The song has had major staying power, which might lead to some labeling it as overplayed, but it’s an infectious anthem that can’t help but fill you with good vibes.
Not-too-obvious pick: “Digital Love”
Unlike “One More Time,” the third track on Discovery, “Digital Love,” isn’t built upon an endlessly-recurring chorus. It’s overwhelmingly sweet and sort of saccharine, but in the best way possible, and it just crushes it down the stretch, riding a presumably-synthesized, guitar-sounding solo to cap off the blissful, dreamy track.
Best live jam: “Around the World/Harder Better Faster Stronger”
Taken from their life-altering, mid-2000s tour and featured on Alive 2007, the mashup of “Around the World” and “Harder Better Faster Stronger” manages to maintain the best qualities of the two tracks, while layering some serious synthesized madness atop them to make a song so powerful it could wake a man from a coma.
Most daring track: “Touch”
Located smack in the middle of 2013’s Random Access Memories, “Touch” is an experience unlike any other. Featuring Paul Williams, “Touch” is at times creepy, theatrical, trippy, funky, jangly, heavenly and straight from outer space. It’s an unforgettable eight-minute journey.
How do you measure an album’s greatness? Depending on which path you take, you’re going to wind up at one of two destinations for Daft Punk. It won’t be Human After All and, in my opinion, you’re reaching if you go with Homework (“Da Funk” and “Around the World” are timeless, but few other tracks fit the bill).
It’s down to Discovery or Random Access Memories. If its production that’s paramount, then the latter is your pick. The instrumentation on RAM is outstanding. If you had to bring an album with you to test out some new speakers, it’s a freakin’ workhorse. Daft Punk was out to make a throwback to when the art of crafting an album — and not just a collection of songs — meant something. And they succeeded admirably, as Random Access Memories took home the top prize at the Grammy Awards.
Discovery is a different animal. Every track is built on samples. But when it comes down to it, I think you have to give it the edge when it comes to memorable entries. RAM has “Get Lucky,” “Touch,” “Giorgio by Moroder,” and just kills it with the most true-to-form Daft Punk song to close things out with “Contact,” but the accessibility, the vibes and the gems on Discovery (c’mon, the album leads out with arguably five of Daft Punk’s top 10 songs), are too hard to turn down.
MUSIC VIDEO: “AROUND THE WORLD”
While Daft Punk’s greatest album may be Discovery, it’s just not a great source of standalone music videos. They’re all taken from Interstella 5555, an anime-style visualization of the album. You’ve gotta look elsewhere. The best place to head is backwards, to ‘97’s Homework.
“Da Funk,” directed by Spike Jonze, is an absolute masterpiece and gives you a whole new perspective on the song, but the unrivaled choreography of “Around the World” is just too damn fantastic to deny here. It’s easily one of the greatest music videos of all time, and I’d be perfectly content to watch it on repeat for hours on end.
RANDOM POP CULTURE MASHUP: MAD MEN
Kenny Cosgrove, doin’ it right! And people said Mad Men was too slow. Pffft.
GIF: TAKE THAT, TAYLOR
Daft Punk being CGI’d into Star Wars and sitting down to talk shop with Han Solo? That’s pretty neat.
Watching the robot duo rip the heart out of Taylor Swift and her entire team at the 2014 Grammys? Priceless. Swift thought her album, Red, was about to take home the top honor. Unfortunately for Swift, another entry beginning with the same letter, Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories, was the winner that evening.
T-Swift got Punk’d.