Daft Punk

In 1992, Daft Punk’s once and future idol Brian Wilson said, “It was a childhood dream of mine to make music that made people feel loved.” That same year, Thomas Bangalter and Guy Manuel de Homem-Christo formed the indie-rock band Darlin’ (named after the Beach Boys song, natch) with Phoenix’s Laurent Brancowitz. They signed to Stereolab’s label, shared the stage with them a few times, were scorned as “daft punky thrash” by Melody Maker’s Dave Jennings, and disbanded. But Wilson retained his hold over Bangalter and Guy-Man, even after they donned masks and then helmets and became the Robots, which have historically had a tenuous relationship with human emotions. Since their sophomore album, Discovery, the human/robot dichotomy and its relationship with that lovin’ feeling have been a part of Daft Punk’s narrative. One need look no further than songs like “Digital Love,” Human After All’s “Emotion,” or the sad androids of the band’s art film Electroma, which self-destruct when their latex human masks melt in the sun. The theme even came up in last week’s remix of “Get Lucky”: Pharrell sings, “I’m up all night” and Daft Punk’s vocoded voices finish “to get lucky,” as if the robots want to get in on the action, too.

After 1997′s Homework, which drew heavily from Chicago house, Daft Punk took a baby step in the direction they would take over a decade later for Random Access Memories, and Discovery was decidedly warmer and more emotional than their debut. “Too Long” could have been put out by Salsa del Soul in the late ’70s, “Superheroes” samples crooner Barry Manilow, and “Something About Us,” with its waow-waow synths and adorably French-accented vocals is a straight-up panty-dropper. Most notably, late DJ and producer Romanthony graduates from a cameo in Homework’s lockstep, roboticized list of “Teachers” to heavy-breathing lead vocals on “One More Time,” which was Daft Punk’s highest-charting song until “Get Lucky.” It’s no coincidence that both songs humanize the dancefloor, giving back life (and love) to the dead-eyed ravers jacking to the beat, trying to get some before the sun comes up. In retrospect, “One More Time” isn’t that different—in structure and life-affirming sentiment, at least—from something Will.i.am might have helped produce, while “Get Lucky,” with Pharrell and Nile Rodgers, is more classy, old school.

Daft Punk went there for their new album partially in reaction to contemporary electronic music. In their recent cover story interview with Rolling Stone, Bangalter said, “Today, electronic music is like an audio energy drink. Artists are overcompensating with this aggressive, energetic, hyperstimulating music — it’s like someone shaking you. But it can’t move people on an emotional level.” Maybe, he continued, the difference between Daft Punk’s new material and Avicii or Skrillex is the same as “between love and sex, or eroticism and pornography.” Many of the voices on Random Access Memories are laden with effects, and Daft Punk have admitted they couldn’t have made this record without computers, but this time they put that digital love into production value. The strings and slide guitar on “Beyond,” “Within,” the piano ballad complete with tinkling fallout, and those shiny, sequined suits—this is an album made for courtship and seduction, not sex behind the speakers. Daft Punk did, as they set out to do, outpace their successors and fans who then accused them, somewhat unfairly, of abandoning their “original sound” as of nearly 15 years ago.

The reality is that Daft Punk have been reinventing themselves even before they were Daft Punk. “You can’t get any hipper, any more current, any more adventurous, any more courageous, in the world of music, than Daft Punk,” Paul Williams said in his earnest segment of The Collaborators, the making-of series that preceded the release of Random Access Memories. (He also lauded Daft Punk for avoiding all the trappings of fame with anonymity, even though their PR campaign was a textbook example of Williams’ “hunger for public attention.” But I digress.) His song, “Touch,” might be the album’s most powerful statement of the new Daft Punk. “Touch, where do you lead? I need something more,” Williams sings, going back to Daft Punk’s belief that when it comes to music, love is better than sex. Bangalter and Guy-Man give him what he needs with Rodgers’ chunky guitar and a horn blasts like sun parting the clouds, as the chorus sings, “If love is the answer, you’re home.” By making Williams feel loved, the Robots have come around to Brian Wilson’s childhood dream, and in the process made a song that’s indicative of their evolution, and it’s not half-bad either.

So with “Get Lucky” having demolished all comers in our Song Of The Summer poll — and an extended Independence Day weekend nearly upon us — it’s an apt moment to sort through all Daft Punk’s songs and pick out the 10 best. Of course, that numeric limitation leaves out more great songs than it includes. Tell us in the comments what would make up your list.

10. “Make Love” (from Human After All, 2005)

Critics largely panned Human After All when it came out. Made in six weeks, paced to work alongside Electroma, and supposedly the result of “pure improvisation,” the album comes off cheap and erratic even to the untrained ear. There are a few good songs, but “Make Love” sounds like it got on there by accident, fading in and out so slow it feels soft around the edges and shorter than it actually is. Simple refrains — the barely audible repetition of “make love,” slow-motion porno guitars, and a piano alternating between low murmurs and viscous stabs — are a welcome break from the rest of Human’s harsh electronics.

9. “Digital Love” (from Discovery, 2001)

On this song, Daft Punk took the chorus to heart and made their dreams come true, playing the same Wurlitzer that Supertramp used on a bridge that was supposed to sound like the ’70s prog-rock titans themselves stepped in to noodle around. A few lines bubbling up from below (“Why don’t you play the game?”) transport the listener to a middle-school dance floor and that sense of childlike wonder the Robots were trying to evoke with an album named Discovery about listening to music at a young age, before we develop the fear of being judged. Bangalter’s caterwauling non-guitar solo doesn’t fear judgment, either.

8. “Alive” (from Homework, 1997)

“Alive” was originally the final mix of the first single, “New Wave,” that Bangalter and de Homem-Christo distributed as Daft Punk in 1993 (to be released a year later). It was the perfect business card to press into the hands Stuart Macmillan, founder of the Scottish techno and house label Soma Quality Recordings — which would go on to produce the first tracks off Homework — at a Nicky Holloway rave at Euro Disney in Paris. “Alive” is one of their most minimal tracks, pumping with relentless piston-like drive that’s a raw template of their work to come.

7. “Contact” (from Random Access Memories, 2013)

When “Contact” came out, a lot of internet commenters speculated that the sample of the astronaut talking about the “bright object” that’s “rotating because it’s flashing” meant that there really was “something out there.” Regardless of whether aliens exist (allegedly the object was part of a discarded rocket in orbit) or how on earth Daft Punk got NASA to let them use a transcript from Apollo 17, “Contact” is an impressive starburst of arpeggiated synthesizers that spin faster and faster, spewing off sparks of noise so blinding that it’s almost a relief when the tension breaks and the song fizzles to a close.

6. “Television Rules The Nation/Crescendolls” (from Alive 2007, 2007)

It’s hard to pick just one medley out of Daft Punk’s performance at the Parisian concert hall Bercy on June 14th, recorded for those who weren’t there to experience #FOMO for the rest of their lives; but this song in particular plays with expectations: the venue’s stupendous sound system gives whole new dimensions to “Television Rules the Nation” (with a tantalizing aside to “Around the World”), but before everyone gets too entranced, the “wee!”s of “Crescendolls” erupt from the speakers. At least we can live vicariously through the audience, who tries to collectively harmonize with everything.

5. “Harder Better Faster Stronger” (from Discovery, 2001)

It’s a little sad to think there might be a generation of people who heard “Harder Better Faster Stronger” first on Kanye West’s “Stronger,” or who didn’t know it was originally a Daft Punk song, but no matter. By the time the song gets to the part Yeezus samples, the Frankenstein vocals and jittery cymbals have streamlined into a tight interplay between thought and action—the beat itself becomes harder, better, faster, stronger. So much better, in fact, that the Alive 2007 version won a Grammy Award for Best Dance Recording.

4. “Around The World” (from Homework, 1997)

Even though it’s ridiculous, “Around The World” goes hard. That bass line heard ’round the world from Chic’s “Good Times,” the occasional sweep of a jet taking off, the mummies and skeletons and synchronized swimmers in the Michel Gondry-directed music video, and a melody focused on the repetition of the phrase “around the world” up to 144 times in the original and 80 in the radio edit — it’s almost too much. But the underlying framework is effective in its simplicity, bumping and grinding to a playful vamp that’s pure Daft Punk.

3. “Da Funk” (from Homework, 1997)

Spike Jonze’s iconic music video for the instrumental “Da Funk” is a bit Kafka-esque: a guy tries to do things like buy books and get on a bus, and he can’t—not because he’s the only one wearing an animatronic dog mask, but because he’s carrying a boombox that can’t stop, won’t stop. It’s a possible dream sequence (an alarm clock blares at the very end) that still can’t deny the clap-beat that abruptly snaps you into the moment. And “Da Funk” is economical enough to work on multiple levels: the title sounds like “Daft Punk,” and “Funk Ad,” which closes out Homework, interpolates the central riff.

2. “Get Lucky” (from Random Access Memories, 2013)

Where were you when you saw the Random Access Memories teaser? That taste of the album’s first single, “Get Lucky,” was almost as good as the binge-listening that catapulted it to the UK’s first million-seller of 2013. Rodgers’ genre-defining technique is so classic it never gets old, and Pharrell, with his understated falsetto and tossed-off “ha” in the first verse, is so cool he can compare cruising to the “legend of the phoenix” without missing a beat. “Get Lucky,” the song and the trailer, was the best possible way to introduce Daft Punk fans to their new favorite band.

1. “One More Time” (from Discovery, 2001)

The original hands-in-the-ay-er jam is also Daft Punk’s most iconic. The student becomes the master on this one as one of Bangalter and de Homem-Christo’s “Teachers,” Romanthony, sings lead vocals to their throbbing 4/4. In a way, “One More Time” is their mission statement. “Our music is not stupid happy house, but it makes people happy,” Bangalter once said. The first step away from Homework’s minimalism, Discovery’s opening track is irresistible—who’s going to say no to “We’re gonna celebrate all night?”—and ephemeral, down to the Cinderella-like church bells that end it.

Listen to this playlist on Spotify here.

Comments (81)
  1. Wow, “Get Lucky” got popular fast.

  2. Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan people are about to be PISSED at Get Lucky being number 2.

    • People that would get pissed about it are wrong… This song seems simple and played out, but I can’t go a day without listening to it at least twice. The list is absolutely right that “One more time” is better, but “Get Lucky” is an absolute beast without even seeming like it.

    • I think “Get Lucky” deserves it.

      He’s right though. People will be pissed. Nothing more consistently hip than rejecting a great song because it is also currently a huge hit. Although if this list were made in 5 years or so, the same people would be pissed if it WASN’T #2

      • Don’t you just think it’s mindblowing that Daft Punk currently have a huge legitimate HIT on their hands? I mean they’ve always had catchy stuff and I feel like anyone on Stereogum has known about them for like a decade plus, but I’ve never thought of them as hitmakers.

        Is it Pharrell’s presence that got them onto the radio? Because I would love to hear another guest vocalist’s take on that song to see how it would play.

        • I guess “One More Time” was a hit, although I was living in Japan at that time. All I know is I heard it every over there. But yes, it is such a pleasant thing to have someone like Daft Punk have the hit of the summer, if not the year.

        • I really don’t think Pharrell pulls that much weight at least as far as a guest singer goes. I think a big part of “Get Lucky” and RAM’s popularity can be attributed to it just being out there, everywhere, due to the extra level of marketing provided by a major label.

          • That and over the last decade Daft Punk have risen to cult status with everyone, including the mainstream. Just listen to mainstream pop radio…their sound basically spawned modern R&B.

        • I don’t know how it would be with another singer but I do know that Pharrell’s voice is PERFECT for the song and I don’t want anyone else singing it ever.

          • take this knowing I’m a complete Daft Punk noob but I just listened to Get Lucky for the first time and I think it’s the weakest track on this list. the only other tune I’ve heard from RAM is Instant Crush and IMO it beats the shit out of Get Lucky: more consistent throughout, better melodies, more emotionally impactful, more interesting, better chorus, better verse, better bridge.

  3. I feel if Get Lucky was replaced with Aerodynamic I wold be slightly more at ease.

  4. I’m also really high on the other Pharrell song, “Lose yourself to dance.” Those two songs are just sneaky good.

  5. I’ll admit I’ve never been a HUGE Daft Punk fan so I won’t be to judgy about the rest of the list but I don’t think “Get Lucky” is even the fourth best song on the album.

    • I’d tend to agree with that but this list favors singles over deep tracks. In the context of the rest of the list I think it fits.

  6. “how on earth” = a pretty decent joke

  7. I have no real problem with this list. Personally I would have included a few more tracks off of Homework and gotten rid of “Contact” and “Make Love.” My favorite Daft Punk track is “Phoenix” off of Homework. That song is absolute minimalist perfection.

  8. Giorgio by Moroder is the best song on RAM and it’s not even on this list. Also, no love for Robot Rock? Especially the Alive 2007 version? Best way to start a concert EVER.

    • I love “Robot Rock” every time I hear it until I realize that it’s not going to change at all. The Alive version is better in this regard, because the riff is undeniable.

  9. I’m pretty sure at some point there was an author of one of these lists who made a really “popular” choice for a high-ranked song and not only did the comments start to build up but the number of readers swelled to unbelievable proportions as well, and I can’t help but believe that this spawned a trend for the site. I think the lists often become a bit of baiting (maybe with the exception of the Walkmen list a while back…a list I was glad to see every single song from at a concert just a couple of weeks later), but in the end once people get over their anger about the inclusion or exclusion of songs, the real fun starts when individual lists from readers pop up and start getting discussed. That’s part of the fun of a communal music experience, right?

  10. Aerodynamic should be on the list.

  11. I’m actually down with this list! I’m not mad at all that “Get Lucky” sits at #2. That and “One More Time” would easily be my crowning duo as well.

    One Human After All song I never hear get enough attention is the title track of that album. That opening thud to the beat, the grindy bass, and that RIFF! My goodness, that riff. That song alone probably birthed Justice. A lot of Human After All tends to get repetitive to the point of annoyance, but Daft Punk knew what they were doing with that one. I could listen to that riff all day.

    Good list. Great write up.

    • Human After All, Technologic and Television Rules the Nation are clearly the best songs from HAA. Robot Rock could be better if it had more variation.

    • Aw man! I totally missed the oppotunity to say “One Human After All song I never hear get enough DIGITAL LOVE…”

      Aw well…

  12. No love for Voyager?

  13. I’ve always been a big fan of Short Circuit. I feel like it is an under-appreciated Discovery track. Very happy with One More Time in the top slot though.

  14. Agreed. That’s one of my favs from Discovery for sure.

  15. One song that I can’t get enough of is “Face to Face.” Does anyone know what the sample says in it? Because I vacillate between “Mr. Furlong” and “Mr. Foot-Long.”

  16. da funk isn’t #1 huh.

    okay then.

  17. I have no issue with this list per se, but I think Daft Punk and I think “da funk”. If anybody has a an issue with “Get Lucky” being so high it’s probably because they were 15 in 1997. Nothing sounded like “Around the World” or “Da Funk” and the first time you heard either song left an impression This was a time when Alternative Rock radio was playing Blink, Everclear and Oasis, and then Daft Punk was dropped, it blew my mind, and the videos? Please. I am gonna have trouble seeing anything above either song mostly out of nostalgia. I’m also not over the moon about Pharell in general.

    All that said, where is “Face to Face”? I think it gets no love because it’s so late on the album. But that song is the jam.

    • Haha I’m a little unsure if you are saying it was good or bad to be 15 in ’97? I actually was 15 when Homework came out. I loved it and was blown away by it. But I have no issue at all with “Get Lucky” being that high. It sounds like you are meaning “You shouldn’t think “Get Lucky” deserves that spot unless you were 15 when Homework came out…” If that’s the case, I suppose you are right, at least in my experience. But maybe I’m reading you wrong…

      Top 4 on this list are definitely the top 4. If one were to suggest the order is slightly interchangeable, I wouldn’t be mad, but I’m all about “Get Lucky.”

      • yeah, interchangeable, with Get Lucky at #4. Putting “Get Lucky” so high feels like putting “You Know You’re Right” above “Lithium” and “Heart-Shaped Box” on the inevitable Nirvana list.

        and it was rad to be 15 in ’97.

        • I get your point. Like I said, I ain’t mad at it. I just happen to agree that “Get Lucky” is that good. “You Know You’re Right” isn’t, so that would indeed be ludicrous.

          15 was a good age.

  18. I was always under the impression that “Around the World” was the de facto Daft Punk song.

  19. What happened to Technologic? Or Robot Rock? It halfway makes sense that “Get Lucky” is No. 2, but “Contact” is one of my least favorite songs on RAM.

  20. I’m going to take an out there approach and say “End of Line” from the Tron soundtrack should’ve been on here.

    I was surprised to see something from Alive 2007 on here, I feel that’s somewhat cheating since each of those “songs” has about 3-4 other daft punk songs built into them. Good choice from it, though.

    That being said I have to echo the love for “Face to Face.” Sure, they opened with “Robot Rock” at those legendary live shows, but when they were 40 minutes in they take their first break. Then to come out of the silence, they use “Face to Face” to bring us back in. It’s a powerful song. Plus, it’s Todd Edwards’ voice who showed up again for one of my deep cut RAM favorites “Fragments of Time.”

    Tough task.

    • I kind of agree with the Alive 2007… as well as “End of Line.” TRON is so overlooked sometimes. A great listen on it’s own.

  21. instant crush

  22. so you’re saying Make Love is a better track than Aerodynamic??????

  23. I’d argue for Aerodynamic and Something About Us…

    • this….something about us is basically the template for RAM and does it better than any of the songs that attempt it….oh and maybe a small shout for ‘doin it right’

  24. As a huge fan, I’d make these changes to the list:
    * Da Funk/Daftendirekt (Alive 2007) replace Da Funk
    * Solar Sailer (Tron Legacy) replace Television Rules The Nation/Crescendolls \
    * Something About Us (Discovery) replace Make Love

  25. Yo THEY DIDN’T SAMPLE “Good Times” Idk if you’ve actually listened to that bass line but they just sound similar.

  26. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

  27. Contact?! REALLY???

  28. It’s become impossible to say that I don’t like “Get Lucky” without being falsely accused of:

    a.) hating pop music
    b.) hating fun music
    c.) hating 70s music
    d.) hating anything popular
    e.) having unfairly high expectations due to previous albums
    f.) having unfairly high expectations due to pre-release hype
    g.) being behind the curve
    h.) not wanting Daft Punk to change

    Is this going to happen everytime an artist who released an at-the-time-misunderstood-but-later-unanimously-agreed-to-be-amazing album (e.g. Discovery, Kid A) as a follow-up to a critically and commercially successful album (e.g. Homework, OK Computer) goes on to release a late-career album (e.g. Random Access Memories, The King of Limbs) I don’t like? I imagine the same thing must have happened to Weezer when the Green Album came out, but at least they’ve consistently released so much terrible music since then that disliking their later work has become socially acceptable.

    Please tell me I’m not alone.

    • According to your paragraph, the answer is:
      e. f. and h.

      You’re definitely not alone. No harm no foul, that’s how music nerds roll.

      • I think I misrepresented myself by including that last paragraph though…was just a separate observation about how the debate always seems to take this tone surrounding albums (like Pinkerton, Kid A, and Discovery) that caused music critics and even many fans to pull a total 180 years after they were released. I should’ve added that the reason I’m not crazy about “Get Lucky” or the rest of Random Access Memories is because I think the songs are not very well written, the guest spots were poorly chosen and sequenced, and the production sounds bland to me…which, to me, are valid reasons to not like any album regardless of artist or genre. If you were to tell me I’m wrong and give reasons of your own, that would also be a valid argument. However, it’s a weird feeling to express my opinion and be told, “You’re just disappointed it’s not Discovery: Part 2,” or, “You need to forget about the hype.” It’s like, “No, I don’t like it because of the reasons I just said I don’t like it. Why don’t you believe me?” Besides, I’m sure people who like the album have suffered similar treatment: “You wouldn’t like it if it weren’t Daft Punk!” “Do you like everything Pitchfork tells you to?!” etc.

        See what I mean? It’s one thing to tell someone you think they’re wrong. It’s another thing entirely to tell someone (or imply) that they don’t even know why they think what they think. If I’m being trolled, then I just wasted a whole lot of time.

        Thanks for the response though. Happy 4th to all the Americans here. Everybody else, get lucky.

        • i hear ya man, i don’t think Get Lucky is deserving of the hype/adulation. i just listened to it for the first time and won’t voluntarily queue it up ever again (more than once or twice just to be sure). don’t think it’s bad, i just don’t give a shit.

        • No I wasn’t trolling. I get ya. I personally love Daft Punk and love RAM, but I hear a lot of reasons why people don’t, and to each his own. I can understand it. What you are saying totally makes sense.

          I like RAM for completely different reasons than I liked their previous albums. It took some complete ignoring of hype and expectation, but at the same time it was that much more interesting because of being nothing like I was expecting it to be. It actually might be my favorite album of their’s at this point.

  29. I’m a very a-typical Daft Punk fan, being more of a rocker/metalhead. So Human After All is by far my favourite album of theirs. It’s like their tribute to bands like The Stooges and Black Sabbath. I also happen to have a soft spot for late seventies AOR, so I also like the things on R.A.M. everyone else hates (Fragments of Time! Touch!).

    My top 10:
    1. The Brainwasher
    2. Stream Machine
    3. The Prime Time of Your Life
    4. Technologic
    5. Da Funk
    6. Harder Faster Better Stronger
    7. Lose Yourself to Dance
    8. Fragments of Time
    9. Around the World
    10. Touch

    (Like I said: Human After All is by far by favourite Daft Punk album.)

    • Though I haven’t heard the top 3 (My only experience with Daft Punk consists of RAM and Discovery, and a few tracks that were on Musique), I agree with this list. Though I would place Touch a little higher, maybe swapping places with Da Funk, and your complete lack of Something About Us is a bit disheartening. I guess when it gets down to it it’s hard to pin down the 10 best Daft Punk songs.

      Also do people really hate Fragments of Time and Touch? Those were the two best songs on RAM, though honestly Instant Crush and Lose Yourself to Dance follow closely behind.

  30. I’m perfectly fine with “Get Lucky” at #2 (honestly it might be my favorite song of theirs) but ” Digital Love” should be higher and surely “Make Love” and “Television” should be bumped in favor of “Aerodynamic” and “Face to Face”. “Contact” definitely doesn’t belong either, how about “Giorgio by Moroder”?

    • “Get Lucky” is still hardly even my favorite RAM track, so I can’t get behind that, but I definitely agree that “Digital Love” needs to be higher (probably my personal #1), and that “Giorgio” would fit the list better than “Contact”. And yeah, “Aerodynamic”.

  31. Make Love is my favourite DP song, glad it got some play here

  32. Something About Us over Making Love, Da Funk and Digital Love higher, and technicalities be damned, what about Music Sounds Better?!?

  33. Great and all, but, uh… Where’s Doin’ It Right?

  34. “Alive” is about eight slots too low, and HUMAN AFTER ALL is criminally underrepresented. And if we’re down with RANDOM ACCESS MEMORIES, what about “Motherboard”?

  35. No Robot Rock or Face to Face? That’s not good.

  36. Meh. Their best tracks are Revolution 909 and Fresh.

  37. When their career is over and we all make Best of Daft Punk playlists, they will all be the greatest playlists ever.

  38. Well, I can see where you want to go with this list – and I’m cool with it! Also, I have to give you credit for putting Make Love there, it sure is an underrated highlight from HAA!

    Still, no Giorgio? And I would put Doin it Right, Revolution 909 and Face to Face there too
    I guess no one can make the ultimate Daft Punk top 10 – something good must be left out

  39. I must be weird. This is my definitive Daft Punk track.

  40. Making a top 10 list of Daft Punk songs is nearly impossible…and I commend your efforts Stereogum…but seriously where’s Aerodynamic. Contact is good and all but isn’t it mostly just an epic album closer?

    • If it is, then I’m listening to it wrong. I think it’s one of the few standout tracks on RAM. That one got repeat play from me. Probably more than Get Lucky.

  41. “Voyager” always gets forgotten :(

  42. “Alive” & “Television Rules The Nation/Cresendolls” but no “Something About Us”, “Teachers”, “High Life” or “Robot Rock” or “Face To Face” ? huh ?

  43. So I’m guessing we’re not counting Alive 2007 songs. I guess I’m ok with that – it’d be a bit like cheating.

  44. I am surprised not to see a track from the Tron Legacy soundtrack. While it may not be an album directly from their discography,the song Derezzed is just an amazing song. Very simple but very good to chill with. I have never seen a movie translate so well to a soundtrack.

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