After nearly 30 years of groundbreaking music, Parisian duo Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter, famously known as Daft Punk, amicably ended their partnership. The band were among the most influential and renowned acts of their time, crafting a unique sound that merged electronic, Euro music with funk elements — a unique blend that made them icons in the music world. After hearing the news, fans and fellow artists alike gushed forth with tributes denoting the massive reach of the dynamic duo’s one-of-a-kind artistry. Without question, Daft Punk’s artistic ingenuity and anonymity have left an indelible mark on the music industry and beyond.
We don’t know for sure if there’s a future for Daft Punk. However, we can surely pause a day later to look back and celebrate the legacy of our two favorite French robots. In that spirit, here are 10 Daft Punk moments that we’ll never forget.
Taking Their Name from a Negative Review (1992)
The name Daft Punk just oozes with coolness. But did you know that their name actually comes from an unimpressed critic? When Bangalter and Homem-Christo went by the name Darlin’, inspired by The Beach Boys song, along with their friend Laurent Brancowitz in 1992, they released a pair of songs on a compilation put out by Stereolab’s Duophonic label. The songs were not well-received, to say the least. They received a mention in the Melody Maker that famously described them as “a daft punky thrash.” They flipped it on its head, changed their name to Daft Punk, and the rest, as they say, is history. I know. Mind blown.
The Epic “Around the World” Video (1997)
With that booming bassline and those funky handclaps, we won’t soon forget Daft Punk’s classic “Around the World”. Released in 1997 as the second single from their debut album, Homework, it was a gamechanger for the group. According to the pair, the process “was like making a Chic record with a talk box and just playing the bass on the synthesizer.” As the title suggests, the song became a major club hit around the world and reached No. 1 on the dance charts in Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States, Iceland, and Italy. It’s a killer song, but the video directed by Michel Gondry takes it to another level. The video features five different groups of characters all representing different instruments. The visual was a precursor of things to come.
Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem (2003)
What separated Daft Punk from most of their peers were at least two things: concealing their collective identity and their commitment to innovation. They continually pushed the boundaries of their creativity and artistry. There is no better example than Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem, their animated film. Released in 2003 and meant as a visual companion to their second studio album, Discovery, the film intersects the musical, science fiction, and anime genres. The plot is based on a band playing for a packed audience on an alien planet that’s invaded by a foreign military power. An intergalactic battle takes place to crown the winner. Without any dialogue and minimal sound, Daft Punk knew how to say it all.
Coachella Performance (2006)
Daft Punk gained a worldwide reputation for putting on epic live performances, even though they only toured sporadically due to their elusiveness. If anyone questioned why their live shows were so revered, they got all the answers they needed at the 2006 Coachella performance. In their set, they debuted their pyramid show, which blew the minds of those who were in attendance, marking their entrance into the American mainstream. Their innovative use of the LED light display would be inspirational to the EDM genre for years to come. Daft Punk’s Coachella performance is without doubt one of the top performances in the history of the festival.
Kanye Samples “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” (2007)
If you were late to the Daft Punk party, Kanye West likely gave you an introduction to the eclectic duo. On “Stronger”, Kanye sampled the pair’s 2001 song, “Harder Faster, Better, Stronger”, taking the band’s signature sound to a new audience. “Stronger” became a massive hit, topping the Billboard Hot 100 several weeks later and giving West his third No. 1 single of 2007. It was a top-10 single in 10 countries, topping the charts in four of them, including the United Kingdom. The song was critically acclaimed and won a Grammy Award for Best Rap Solo Performance at the 50th Grammy Awards, proving that the Daft Punk sound had inspired artists across multiple genres.
The Tron: Legacy Soundtrack (2010)
Tron: Legacy tells the story of the son of a famous video-game developer, Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), who has been haunted for a long time by his father’s mysterious disappearance. A strange signal draws Sam to Flynn’s Arcade, and he is pulled into the same cyber world in which his father, its creator, has been trapped for 20 years. With that kind of plot, Daft Punk were the perfect choice to produce the soundtrack. The score features an 85-piece orchestra that wed orchestral and electronic music. The soundtrack debuted at No. 10 on the Billboard 200 with sales of 71,000 copies. This marked the duo’s first top 10 album in the United States. It was also nominated for Best Score Soundtrack Album for Visual Media at the 54th Grammy Awards.
2014 Grammys Performance (2014)
In one of the greatest Grammy performances in recent memory, Daft Punk stole the show with the help of some star-studded guests. Performing “Get Lucky”, one of the biggest songs of the year, the group were joined on stage by Pharell Williams (who’s featured on the song and a co-writer), legendary guitarist Nile Rodgers (also a co-writer), and the one and only Stevie Wonder. The medley of “Get Lucky”, Chic’s “Freak Out”, and Stevie Wonder’s “Another Star” was a performance for the ages. Daft Punk’s display of funk musicianship had the usual “too cool for school” Grammy audience out of their seats dancing the night away. Talk about slaying a tough room.
Winning the Album of the Year Grammy (2014)
Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories was a juggernaut of an album all over the world. Although the record faced stiff competition come Grammy time from Kendrick Lamar’s good Kidd, M A A d city, Sara Baraeillies’ The Beautiful Unrest, Taylor Swift’s Red, and Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ The Heist, no one was surprised when Daft Punk took home the ultimate prize. To add a cherry on top, Daft Punk also took home Record of the Year for “Get Lucky”.
The Weeknd’s “Starboy” (2016)
While “Get Lucky” peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, the duo finally achieved a No. 1 song through a feature on The Weeknd’s “Starboy” in 2016. The Canadian singer and Daft Punk co-wrote and co-produced the song alongside Doc McKinney and Henry “Cirkut” Walter, with Jason Quenneville. It was released as the first single from The Weeknd’s album of the same name, and the song skyrocketed to the No. 1 spot. Eventually, the track was certified 8x platinum by the RIAA for eight million units, including streams, on March 20, 2020. After more than 20 years of making music together, Daft Punk finally had their first No. 1 record.
Best Breakup Announcement Ever! (2021)
At any stage of life, rarely do we get to leave on our own terms. If this is Daft Punk’s bon voyage, then this was the most epic retirements of an artist ever. In the “Epilogue” video announcing the end of their partnership, which was taken in part from the group’s 2006 film Electroma, the two members are seen walking together in the desert. When they meet each other, the one in the silver helmet takes off his jacket, showing the Daft Punk logo, and the other hits a button on his back starting a 60-second countdown. As it counts down, he walks away, without looking back, and is then blown apart into pieces that resemble a machine more than a human. What a way to go out!