When I woke up a few weeks ago, idly logged on to Twitter, and saw people lamenting the end of French duo Daft Punk’s impressive 20-year run, I felt pretty indifferent. They hadn’t released music in years so they were off my radar anyways, and besides—it’s not like they died. However, as I went on with my day I grew increasingly sentimental and nostalgic, thinking back to how massive and prevalent the duo really were throughout some of my most formative years. I also began to realize that the split doesn’t just mean the end of their own music, but of Daft Punk featuring on other people’s music. Remember when they collabed with The Weeknd on “Starboy” and “I Feel it Coming”—or their multiple production/co-writing credits for Kanye West, N.E.R.D and Kavinsky? If you see Daft Punk’s name among the sea of credits for any given record, you just know the shit is gonna sound straight out of the year 3021.
Ok their music isn’t that futuristic per-se (it’s more like the 80’s does future, and we all know the 80’s was all about the future) but it still has that touch of optimism and pop sensibilities that 80s music had, albeit Daft Punk does it with updated production. Though obsessed with the future, they may be even more obsessed with the past, sporting sequin tuxedos as they jam next to CHIC’s legendary guitarist, Nile Rodgers, in the music video for their multi Grammy Award winning hit, Get Lucky. The trajectory of Daft Punk’s career sails through various genres of bygone eras– from disco and funk to house and glam-rock. It’s a retro collage of the past, present, and their own unique and innovative vision of what the future could sound like. But if there’s one facet that binds their discography together, it’s the undeniable, feel-good danceability of their music– a quality they’ve been dedicated to since their debut album.
The end of Daft Punk also got me thinking about the late Romanthony, a producer and DJ who is the unsung champion of Daft Punk’s seminal album, Discovery. He’s one of the few featured vocalists on the record, which is otherwise populated with heavy sampling and camouflaged vocals (via the holy vocoder) from Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo themselves. Romanthony provides vocals for the duo’s most acclaimed electro-house anthem, One More Time. Skip to the very end of the record and you can once again hear Romanthony’s vocals on the album’s 10 minute closer, Too Long. “It’s been much too long, I can feel it coming on” he belts at the beginning of the song, almost acapella style accompanied only by a twinkly breakbeat sampled from Rose Royce’s First Come, First Serve (1978). As the song slowly progresses, the lyrics start to change: “At last, the long wait is over, the weight is off my shoulders, I’m taking all control.” Daft Punk knows how to open and close a record, how to take their listeners through a diverse range of emotions and musical aesthetics.
And the same can certainly be said too in regards to their illustrious career. Their penchant for decadence is well represented in the group’s dramatic breakup announcement, which dropped in the form of an 8 minute Youtube video aptly titled “Epilogue.” The video (itself an excerpt from Daft Punk’s 2006 film Electroma) opens with the band walking in what seems to be some vast desert, sporting their iconic disguises for the very last time. Thomas (silver helmet) flips a switch located on the back of Guy-Manuel’s suit, initiating a countdown. Thomas walks away as the timer ticks, eventually reaching zero causing him to detonate into bits and pieces as he watches from afar, completely unwavering. Then the video pretty much ends. Do we assume he flipped his own switch, or did he survive? Is there a glimmer of hope that one day Thomas may resurrect his fellow cyborg, or will he continue to release his own music? Is this really the end of Daft Punk? Probably, yes.
On the one hand, this video as the last piece of material that Daft Punk produced is underwhelming– they simply explode into nonexistence. But it is a very fitting finale to their career; it adds even more fuel to the lore that surrounds their mysterious personas and backstories. The long wait is over, the weight is certainly off their shoulders by now. The two have forever left their mark on history and pop culture, and the only reasonable departure is to self-destruct, to destroy what they created in the most theatrical, campy yet classy way they can. Only an enigmatic group like Daft Punk has the power to do so, and we must accept this peculiar swan song. There is no official narrative of who the two characters are, where they came from, who created them– but that doesn’t matter anymore. They arrived here on earth many years ago, accomplished what they needed to, and in the blink of an eye were destroyed like a burnt bag of popcorn in a microwave.