Everything's Better with Robots!
Influences: Aphex Twin
, The Beach Boys
, John Carpenter
, Wendy Carlos, The Doobie Brothers, The Eagles
, Elton John
, Fleetwood Mac
, Bernard Herrmann
, Philip Glass, Jean Michel Jarre
, Maurice Jarre
, Giorgio Moroder
, Primal Scream
, Max Steiner
, The Rolling Stones
, The Stooges
Daft Punk is one of the most popular electronic bands ever (along with Kraftwerk
, Yellow Magic Orchestra
and a few others). Formed in 1993 by Frenchmen Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, the duo have popularized French house music and established a lot of its elements
, to the point where the genre has been miscredited as being created by them. Nevertheless, Daft Punk's work definitely furthered the acceptance of electronic music in mainstream culture.
They have released four albums thus far, alongside film scores, two films that of their own creation and several side projects. 1997's Homework
(and its live album counterpart Alive 1997
) was a trailblazing showcasing of French house, Chicago house and acid house; their signature sound was accompanied by eye-popping music videos by Michel Gondry
for "Da Funk" and "Around the World", which were many peoples' introduction to house music and electronica in general. Daft Punk followed this up with 2001's Discovery
, which combined soul and disco samples with slick production values. The entire album was the score for an anime film, Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5olar 5ystem
(directed by the legendary Leiji Matsumoto
) and featured some of their most recognizable hits, "One More Time" and "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger".
Daft's third album, 2005's Human After All
, was a reductive dance-rock album that polarized critics and audiences alike
with its brash, distorted compositions. Their art film Daft Punk's Electroma
, about two robots attempting to find acceptance by disguising themselves as humans, shortly followed. Their second live album, Alive 2007
, recontextualized their first three albums by heading deep into mashup territory, which not only revitalized critical opinion of Human After All
, but provided a never-before-seen stage show consisting of a massive glowing pyramid
surrounded by a blinding array of lasers and neon lights
— a template used since by many musicians from all genres.
Daft Punk were tapped by Disney
to provide the score to TRON: Legacy
. Their score, evocative of electronic music of the 70s and 80s, was made in line with (and as a tribute to) Wendy Carlos' original score for TRON
. Their fourth album, Random Access Memories
, was released in 2013 and was Daft Punk's love letter to the soul, funk and R&B albums from the 70s and 80s that they grew up on. The band worked closely with their longtime heroes, including disco pioneer Giorgio Moroder, singer-songwriter Paul Williams, Chic
guitarist/songwriter Nile Rodgers, and several internationally renowned musicians and session players, like Nathan East and John "J.R." Robinson. The album gave Daft Punk five Grammy awards in 2014, including Album of the Year and Record of the year for the album's lead single "Get Lucky", giving them seven total Grammys.
Also notable are several contributions that are often overlooked by casual observers. Thomas Bangalter has produced many dance recordings under his own name and aliases, including the supergroup Stardust, which scored an international hit with "Music Sounds Better with You". He is friends with film director Gaspar Noe
, creating the film scores for Irreversible
and Enter the Void
. Guy-Homem de Manuel-Christo produced Kavinsky
's hit song "Nightcall", as well as Sebastien Tellier's album Sexuality
. Though shy on producing for other artists for the majority of their careers, Daft Punk did contribute to four songs on Kanye West
's 2013 album Yeezus
, as well as provide vocals to Pharrell Williams' single "Gust of Wind". The duo have also contributed eleven mixes for the Guitar Hero Spin-Off
, DJ Hero
, as well as being playable characters in the latter.
Finally, Daft Punk embody The Faceless
trope, having spent the bulk of their careers shrouding themselves in secrecy by appearing in public with masks on. Their most famous masks are the robot costumes they debute for Discovery
, which have progressively been updated during each face of their career since. As the page quote suggests, the choice for secrecy was deliberate: it allows the band to enjoy their personal lives, while making their music strictly about itself and audience satisfaction, not about themselves. Apart from some very early press photos, Daft Punk allowed a sculptor to carve their likenesses as full-size human statues
; in fact, the band chose to do it without helmets, so any further speculation about their identities could be answered by the sculptures.
- Homework (1997)
- Alive 1997 (1997)
- Discovery (2001)
- Human After All (2005)
- Alive 2007 (2007)
- TRON: Legacy: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (2010)
- Random Access Memories (2013)
Daft Punk provides examples of the following tropes:
- Aerith and Bob: Their names are Guillaume Emmanuel ("Guy-Manuel", or just "Guy-Man") de Homem-Christo... and Thomas Bangalter.
- Album Title Drop:
- Almost. "Fragments of Time" from ''Random Access Memories" mentions "random memories".
- The spoken lines of "WDPK 83.7 FM": "WDPK 83.7, the sound of tomorrow, the music of today, brings you exclusively Daft Punk's Homework."
- all lowercase letters: Their name is rendered this way on their logo and album covers.
- Animated Music Video: Interstella 5555 is essentially a glorified one of these, along with all of the Discovery music videos which were derived from it.
- Appropriated Appellation: They're named after a disparaging review of their previous band (a garage rock band called Darlin', where the reviewer described it as "a bunch of daft punk").
- Arc Number: 9.
- Arc Symbol: For Human After All, a television. There was one on the album cover, one on every single cover, and songs such as "Television Rules the Nation" and "On/Off" continued the trend.
- Audience Participation Song: A lot of the songs off Alive 2007, most notably when "One More Time" and "Da Funk" come into play.
- Author Tract:
- Their film Interstella 5555 is basically a gigantic middle finger to the celebrity system and the corporate world's exploitation of artists, which fits Daft Punk's core philosophies quite well.
- It can be argued that Electroma has one as well, if anyone could figure it out.
- Awesome McCoolname:
- Berserk Button: In a meta example, other dance music artists often get annoyed when their music is compared to that of Daft Punk's, as a result of the general audience's Small Reference Pools. deadmau5 has publicly stated that he has shied away from using electric pianos in his work for fear of being misinterpreted as ripping off Daft Punk, while Morgan Page and Wolfgang Gartner have aired similar grievances over Twitter.
- Body Horror: The music video for "Prime Time of Your Life".
- Broken Record: The vast majority of their earlier work involve some melody or vocal sample repeated to a humongous extent. Take "Around the World" for example, which repeats the title 144 times.
- "The Prime Time of Your Life" has a unique variation. At the two-minute mark, a beat is established that loops throughout the song. However, it gradually gets faster over time until it devolves into a mechanical whir at the very end.
- Brown Note: Bangalter wrote the film score for Irreversible. He loaded the soundtrack up with these in order to disturb the audience.
- The Cameo:
- Central Theme: The connections and differences between robots and humans.
- The opening of Alive 2007 has two robotic voices chanting "ROBOT" and "HUMAN" at each other.
- Human After All dives into this topic, natch. The album seems to alternate between the two but shows more focus on the robot/technological side musically and thematically ("Brainwasher", "Steam Machine", "Technologic", "Robot Rock", "On/Off", "Television Rules the Nation") with some exceptions. Halfway through the album, it decides to take a break with the downbeat and mellow "Make Love", and it comes full circle at the very end with "Emotion".
- This picture◊ of the duo has the word "HUMAN" written on Thomas's helmet visor.
- Daft Punk's Electroma has their robot characters attempting to use disguises to become human. It backfires horribly.
- Clothes Make the Legend / Iconic Outfit: Their robot helmets.
- Cluster F-Bomb: Their "Touch It"/"Technologic" mix during the Alive 2007 tour had the robot voice dropping one of these by splicing different phrases together.
- Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: Downplayed, but when the duo appears in their "standard" outfits, Thomas' helmet is silver, and Guy-Man's is golden.
- Cool Helmet
- Darker and Edgier: Human After All. Its songs had a lot more of a rock influence, and a grittier, more abrasive sound overall. Some of the music videos were downright terrifying.
- Downer Ending: "Touch"
- Dude Looks Like a Lady: Guy-Manuel in his earlier years. He was even mistaken for Thomas' girlfriend in one instance.
- Dying Declaration of Love: "Something About Us".
- Dystopia: The worldview of "Human After All".
- Earn Your Happy Ending: After many years in the business, Daft Punk finally got a US Top 40 hit with 2013's "Get Lucky". The thing is, a veteran music act scoring its first Top 40 hit in the 2010s is almost unheard of. In fact, the last time this happened was with Weezer and "Beverly Hills". And that was in 2005. And to top it off, "Get Lucky" would win Record of the Year and Random Access Memories would win Album of the Year at the 2014 Grammys. (Though the Grammys have no problem recognizing veteran music acts.) To top it off, "Get Lucky" was largely a Disco Revival piece, making it big in the country where Deader Than Disco is a trope.
- Epic Instrumental Opener: Inverted on Alive 2007. It starts with two voices chanting "ROBOT" and "HUMAN" back and forth at each other, getting faster and faster, before segueing into the largely-instrumental "Robot Rock".
- Epic Rocking:
- "Too Long", which is ten minutes long.
- "Giorgio by Moroder" and "Touch" from Random Access Memories are over 8 minutes long and go through several musical styles.
- Many tracks on Homework are six or seven minutes long, including the uncut version of "Around the World".
- Their "Prime Time of Your Life / Brainwasher / Rollin' & Scratchin' / Alive" mashup is their longest song, clocking at 10:22.
- The Faceless: The duo are famous for their refusal to allow ANYONE to see their true faces. Even before the started wearing their robot helmets, when they were just two French Guys™ during their first tour, they were described as "incredibly shy," which might have something to do with the helmets.
- Interviews are a mixed bag. The two did interviews promoting Daft Punk's Electroma with hoods over their heads, and during the pre-production of TRON: Legacy, they actually met the Director at a Los Angeles pancake house ... while wearing their robot suits! On the other hand, for a GQ profile promoting Random Access Memories they were without their robot suits and were able to blend in public perfectly.
- A new helmetless picture was posted to Facebook by another electronic band, The Knocks, in June 2013. They were ultimately forced to take it down, though the image is still visible.◊
- Fading into the Next Song:
- The first few songs from Homework all fade into each other.
- Discovery has only a few noticeable song breaks throughout the entire album. (Incidentally, a remix of "Aerodynamic" on the album Daft Club, "Aerodynamic (Daft Punk Remix)", though not an example but likely meant to take this further, takes the lyrics of "One More Time" and adds them to "Aerodynamic", with the two having been examples of the previously mentioned trope originally.)
- Being a live DJ set, Alive 2007 is chock full of these.
- Fake-Out Fade-Out:
- For Doom the Bell Tolls: The opening of "Aerodynamic".
- Freak Lab Accident: Legend tells that when the pair were working on a sampler on September 9th, 1999, at exactly 9:09 AM, their studio exploded. When they came to, they were robots.
- Fun Personified: As can be seen in the quote above, they take the enjoyment of their fans very seriously. Their iconic robot look is a way for fans to immerse themselves into the music.
- Fun with Acronyms: A DVD of the music videos for Homework was released with the title D.A.F.T.: A Story About Dogs, Androids, Firemen and Tomatoes. Aside from spelling "Daft", this references elements of the videos themselves — Charles, the anthropomorphic dog main character in "Da Funk" and "Fresh", the robots in "Around the World", the firefighters in "Burnin'", and the tomatoes in "Revolution 909".
- Genre Roulette: Random Access Memories, while listed as "Pop" on iTunes, toys around with many different genres and genre influences between songs. "Give Life Back to Music", "Lose Yourself to Dance" and "Get Lucky" are disco, while other songs like "Giorgio by Moroder" and "Contact" are more influenced by electronica, though with some live instrumentation. "Doin' it Right", and "Fragments of Time" fall squarely into soft rock, while "Instant Crush" is a more electronic take on the alternative rock music of singer Julian Casablacas in The Strokes. Their collaboration with Paul Williams, "Touch," is a roulette game by itself, mixing disco, pop, roadhouse piano, a children's choir, and sci-fi psychedelia.
- Genre Throwback: While Daft Punk have always toyed with this idea, Random Access Memories was the first time that they actually sounded like their heroes from The Seventies. The album features Nile Rodgers of disco band Chic and Giorgio Moroder (disco producer most known for creating Donna Summer's best works). The session musicians used for the album were given music by Electric Light Orchestra, Supertramp and Michael McDonald as reference points, and it shows.
- Gratuitous Panning: "WDPK 83.7 FM" has a vocoded voice saying "music" that is repeatedly panned between the right and left ears.
- It's actually sampled from Daft Punk's own "Musique".
- A Good Name for a Rock Band: Or for a House Duo — the phrase "daft punk" originally appeared in a negative review of their former band (see Appropriated Appellation above).
- Hell-Bent for Leather: During their Human After All era, the duo was most frequently seen wearing leather jackets and pants.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: The duo has known each other since grade school and are seemingly the closest of friends after all these years. There's a big d'awww factor in that as well. Case in point, when they won the Best Album award at the 2014 Grammys, the first thing the robots did was hug each other for a good few seconds before heading onstage.
- There's a reason the first album was called Homework. Further, one of the songs on Human After All is called "Robot Rock" — Kraftwerk's preferred term for techno.
- "Teachers" is this. It's a List Song of Daft Punk's influences as musicians.
- Both Discovery and Random Access Memories can be seen as a Homage to the music of the late '70s and early '80s, but the two albums take very different approaches. Discovery makes extensive use of samples of disco and post-disco songs, while Random Access Memories uses a live band and vintage electronics to recreate the original sound.
- Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Well, Album Naming — Alive 1997 and Alive 2007.
- Idiosyncratic Cover Art / Minimalistic Cover Art:
- Incredibly Long Note:
- At the two minute mark of "The Prime Time of Your Life", the robotic voice that has been repeatedly chanting the lyrics ("The prime time of your life / Now / Live it") then says the song title once more, only the I sound in "life" gets stretched out for a good 20 seconds and gradually dissolves into the beat.
- The opening guitar section in "Fresh" ends with a note that is held out for quite a long time as the song's beat fades in.
- Intercourse with You: "Get Lucky". The funny thing is that almost no one knew the song's meaning... yet.
- The Invisible Band
- Kayfabe Music: Their personae as a couple of robots.
- Large Ham: T-Bang. In The Brainwasher: I AM... THE BRAAAAIIIINWAAAAASSSSSHHHHHHEEEEEEEEEERRRRRRRRR!
- Last Note Nightmare:
- "Contact" starts normally but gradually gets consumed by unnerving noise and distortion. The final minute or so of the song is nothing but distortion.
- "The Prime Time of Your Life", although the nightmare starts halfway through the song and continues to the end. The song's beat slowly gets faster until it becomes an unnerving mechanical whir.
- Lens Flare: The clip for "Robot Rock" is full of those.
- Limited Lyrics Song: This band seems to like this trope quite a bit.
- "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" (Not all of the lyrics are sung in each verse.)
Work it harder, Make it better
Do it faster, Makes us stronger
More than ever, Hour after hour
Work is never over
- "Lose Yourself to Dance" repeats the same verse about 4 times over the course of the 6 minute song. Pharrel Williams is singing the lyrics, but Daft Punk adds some extra lines later into the song as background lyrics.
I know you don't get a chance to take a break this often.
I know your life is speeding, and it isn't stopping.
Here, take my shirt and just go ahead and wipe off all the sweat. Sweat. SWEAT.
LOSE YOURSELF TO DANCE!
LOSE YOURSELF TO DANCE!
LOSE YOURSELF TO DANCE!
LOSE YOURSELF TO DANCE!
- "The Brainwasher" qualifies as well.
I AM THE BRAINWASHER!
I AM THE BRAINWASHER!
- Also, "Robot Rock".
Rock, Robot rock!
Rock, Robot rock!
- "The Prime Time of Your Life". At least, for the first half.
THE PRIME TIME OF YOUR LIFE.
- List Song: At least two.
- "Teachers", from Homework, is a list of musicians that are their influences, all described as being "in the house".
Dr. Dre's in the house, yeah
Omega in the house...
- "Technologic", from Human After All, lists things that can be done with technology, most ending in "it".
Buy it, use it, break it, fix it, trash it, change it, mail, upgrade it
Charge it, point it, zoom it, press it, snap it, work it, quick, erase it...
- Live Album: Alive 1997 and Alive 2007.
- Looped Lyrics: Many of them. In particular, most of Human After All.
- Mind Screw: The music video to "Around the World".
- Mind Screwdriver: Each individual group of dancers in the "Around the World" video represents each instrumental part. The large men in tracksuits represent the bass, the skeletons represent the guitar, the mummies represent the drum machine, the "disco girls" represent the keyboard, and the robots represent the vocal track.
- Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: Usually their output ranges from 1 to 4. However, some of their songs on Human After All are as heavy 6 to 8, and a few tracks on Homework, and their work on Yeezus, can range from 9 to 11.
- Mondegreen: There has been many a speculation on what the looped lyric in "Superheroes" is. Guesses include "Love is in the air", "Up in the air", "Look in the air", "Go through the air", "Throw guns in the air", and "Cum is in the air". The correct answer is "Something's in the air", and it's probably easier to spot if you listen to the sample where it came from.
- Motorcycle Jousting: This is the theme of the music video for "Derezzed"; a fictional videogame of this nature.
- New Sound Album: Every album they've done since Homework.
- Homework is techno or house with funk influences.
- Discovery has more synthpop and dance-pop influences.
- Human After All has some rock elements such as electric guitars, which had been uncommon in their music before ("Aerodynamic" notwithstanding).
- Random Access Memories is a Genre Throwback to disco and the early days of electronic music, and features more live instruments and guest vocals instead of say, drum machines and vocoders only.
- Notable Music Videos:
- Pretty much all of Discovery's music videos, which were clips from Interstella 5555.
- Also, the video for "Around the World", featuring skeletons, giant monster things, dancing girls, and robots.
- The music video for "Da Funk", which is less of a music video and more of a short film detailing the adventures of an anthropomorphic dog with a broken leg named Charles with the song as a backing track. The video for "Fresh" is a sequel, following a similar premise.
- And of course, "The Prime Time of Your Life", which is an extremely weird, quite graphic video involving a girl with anorexia peeling all her skin off bloodlessly and dying.
- "Get Lucky" was notable for not having a music video (in keeping with the old-school theme of the album). Just a short ad aired on Saturday Night Live. That didn't stop fans from creating their own, though.
- One-Way Visor: Their helmets. Or at least, it gives off this effect. An interview reveals they're in fact seeing through pinhole-sized holes in front of their eyes.
- Opening Monologue: "Giorgio by Moroder". Guess who narrates it?
- Origins Episode: "Daft Punk's Electroma" essentially tells the origin of the duo's fictional selves.
- Pinocchio Syndrome: The plot of Daft Punk's Electroma, possibly.
- Rearrange the Song:
- Alive 2007 goes without saying.
- "Funk Ad", the concluding track on Homework, is merely a minute-long portion of "Da Funk" played backwards.
- Record Producer: The DIY side of it, at least.
- Recurring Riff: The "robot gasping for air" sound from "Technologic" is reused in "Emotion", which is actually the next song on the album (Human After All).
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: As seen in their interviews, Thomas, as the Red Oni, does most on the talking and is very expressive and mischievous while Guy-Man, as the Blue Oni, doesn't talk much and is very reserved and shy.
- Robot or Spaceman Alter Ego
- Rock Opera: Discovery, sorta. It's the soundtrack for Interstella 5555, which is told entirely through that album. It makes no sense as an opera without the movie, though.
- Sampling: As is par for the course, given their genre.
- Notable examples include Breakwater on "Robot Rock", Billy Joel on "High Fidelity" and "Fresh", Barry Manilow on "Superheroes", and lots of other 70s disco, funk, R&B, and soul artists. The most high-profile case of Daft Punk themselves being sampled is probably Kanye West's "Stronger". "Robot Rock" is also a very popular track for up-and-coming rap talent to freestyle over, as well.
- This video shows most if not all of the songs that were sampled in the making of Discovery.
- Random Access Memories notably contains only one sample during "Contact".
- Sharp-Dressed Man: Or robots. They wore suits, particularly the sequined ones◊, while promoting Random Access Memories.
- SH Figuarts: Yes, really◊. While they're a case of No Export for You in Japan, they'll be a regular release in North America.
- Silence Is Golden: They never actually talk in any of their public appearances. Part of the robot getup is that they're incapable of human speech. Then, in interviews where they actually do speak, Guy-Man is noted for not saying much. When prodded by an interviewer in 2013 about this, Guy-Man cites this trope almost verbatim as his explanation.
- Speedy Techno Remake
- Spiritual Successor: To Kraftwerk, being a (famously reclusive) electronic band from Europe, who also happen to be robots.
- Spoken Word in Music:
- The autobiography-cum-song "Giorgio by Moroder", in which Moroder himself speaks about his music career.
- From "Revolution 909": "STOP THE MUSIC AND GO HOME! I REPEAT, STOP THE MUSIC AND GO HOME!"
- Stealth Pun: Clocking in at exactly 10 minutes, "Too Long" is the longest studio song the duo has ever recorded.
- Surprisingly Gentle Song:
- "Nightvision" off of Discovery, which serves as an eerily ambient interlude.
- "Make Love" off of Human After All, which serves as a nice and mellow break after the previous four tracks of madness.
- "Emotion" off of the same album, which provides a tearjerker finale while reinforcing the human-robot theme.
- The Random Access Memories Japanese bonus track "Horizon"—though its status as a bonus means it follows the Last Note Nightmare of "Contact"
- Throw the Dog a Bone: The anthropomorphic dog, Charles, who just couldn't catch a break and ended up separated from his Love Interest, Beatrice, in the "Da Funk" video, is shown to have a successful acting career and having reconnected with Beatrice in the "Fresh" video. Daft Punk specifically made this sequel to cheer up people who thought Charles' original fate was depressing.
- Title Only Chorus:
- "Around the World", which is actually a title-only song. The only words are "around the world/around the world" over and over again.
- Human After All combines this with Single Stanza Song for the duration of the entire album.
- Title Track: On Human After All.
- Together in Death: Literally. The ending of the "Instant Crush" video shows the two wax mannequins staring at each other, hands overlapped, melting together in a fire.
- Triumphant Reprise: In the TRON: Legacy OST, "Tron Legacy (End Titles)" is one for "The Grid".
- Tron Lines:
- Unplugged Version: They released an unplugged version of "One More Time", performed by Romanthony (the original singer, without vocoder this time) on Daft Club.
- Weight Woe: The video for "The Prime Time of Your Life" plays this in what is probably the most disturbing, graphic way possible.
- What Measure Is a Non-Human?: The relationship between robots and humans is discussed, experimented with, taken apart, compared, and contrasted in their music.
- Zipperiffic: Their outfits circa Human After All
Stop the music and go home, I repeat: stop the music and go home.