In this week’s “A Perfect 10,” I am going to explore the 10 songs that best represent a band that has single-handedly redefined the genre of dance/house/electronic music time and time again: Daft Punk. The French duo of Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo have only released four original albums over the course of nearly 30 years, five if you count their work on 2008’s Tron: Legacy. With such sparse releases, it is hard to believe that the duo has made such an impact on the music industry. Yet, with every release, people find it nearly impossible to not dance and groove to their tracks, myself included.
In this article, I am going to list the 10 Daft Punk songs that have had the biggest impact on both myself and on music as a whole. I’ll try to spread it out across the albums as much as I can, but that may not always be the case. Daft Punk has undergone such crazy changes from one album to the next that it is so hard to compare one song to another. With that being said, let’s dive in and see what the perfect 10 tracks for a Daft Punk mixtape.
Honorable Mention: ALL of Alive 2007 (2007)
I cannot in good conscience list any songs from the nearly impeccable live album, Alive 2007. Any self-respecting Daft Punk fan knows that the tracks off this album are some of their best work in any metric and definitely deserve some respect. However, the reality is that the tracks are remixes of their own work. So, just to make things easy, I will not be including them in this list. BUT, do know that I fully understand and agree that the live set the duo posted in the summers of 2006/07 are masterpieces in their own right.
Track 1: “Da Funk” (1995)
I am going to start off the “Perfect 10” album with the first major single Daft Punk ever had, 1995’s “Da Funk.” This single almost put Daft Punk on the map, but not originally. With only 2,000 records put out at its initial release, it was nearly entirely ignored. After a few other artists incorporated it into their shows, the duo re-released the song once they signed with Virgin Records, giving the song more traction. At the time, “Da Funk” was very much unlike anything people had ever heard before. The scratching synthesizers, the funky baseline and the “siren sound” riff really made the song and gave it an identity. It also helps that it has an iconic music video directed by none other than Spike Jonze.
Track 2: “Human After All” (2005)
I may be getting some flak for this one, but the perfect Daft Punk mixtape does not exist without at least one song from the much-maligned mid-2000’s album, Human After All. The title track was the third single from the album, and for many, the entire thing was just a letdown after the nearly perfect Discovery only four years earlier. That being said, I truly believe this song does not get nearly enough love. “Human After All” harkens back to much of Daft Punk’s earlier work, with plenty of raw synthesizer sound and scratchy riffs and choruses. Say what you will, but the track just hits all the right notes at the right moments. As in, there isn’t a single thing I would change about it. The album may not be their best work, but the title track is a bright and shining spot that needs to be recognized.
Track 3: “Around The World” (1997)
This song is what brought Daft Punk, ahem, around the world. It is so simple, yet so incredibly complex and fruitful that it is impossible to hate it. The song finally put Daft Punk on the map for so many people new to their music. It instantly became a staple in clubs around the world, and it reached the top of the dance charts almost everywhere. The song consists of only the three title words being sung over and over, with an incredible and ever-changing tune underneath it. From the funky baseline to the inescapable hook, this track is a must-have for an album that represents all of Daft Punk.
Track 4: “Get Lucky” (2013)
This next song is the one that everyone knows is on the mixtape, due to how often it graced the airwaves. 2013’s “Get Lucky” is an absolute banger of a song in nearly every way, shape and form. It has a great bass line, a perfect funky lead from the great Nile Rodgers, silky smooth lyrics from Pharrell, and it was all tied together with classic Daft Punk trickery. To add on to that, the song won best song AND Random Access Memories won best record at the Grammy Awards that year. It deserves every bit of acclaim that it received, even if it was on repeat at every single radio station across the country.
Track 5: “Aerodynamic” (2001)
This song always seems to get slept on, and I am here to make that stop. Coming from the ever-so-popular Discovery, this song just hits different than the rest of the album, but that is not a bad thing at all. The first third of the song is all about a funky intro and action set piece. The song has a typical Daft Punk repetitive synthesizer intro, but you can already tell you are in for something great. And then it hits you…that guitar solo. Oh boy, that solo is something else…It may not sound like much to a true champion guitarist, but it is nothing to sneeze at either. It overtakes the entire song for a few bars, then is paired back in with the bass line for a beat that is impossible not to bop around to. The song then subdues for the last third, bringing listeners to a slow and smooth outro that is the perfect accouterment for the entire song. It is an incredible ride from start to finish, and you will never want to get off.
Track 6: “Digital Love” (2001)
“Digital Love” is one of those songs that a lot of people might recognize, but do not know who the artist was. It is a wonderful and happy piece towards the front of Discovery, and it is an absolute joy to listen to. The song is also, in my opinion, the easiest of this list to dance to. The track features a sample of “I Love You More” by George Duke as its over-arching theme, but it also dives into its own self at the same time. And by that I mean “Digital Love” creates its own identity over the course of the song. You feel like you are on a roller coaster made of rainbows…hearing the song just makes you smile.
Track 7: “Contact” (2013)
It truly was neck and neck for me in terms of which song off of Random Access Memories was going to be listed next, but I think I made the right choice. “Lose Yourself to Dance” is amazing in so many ways, but “Contact” might quite possibly be the best Daft Punk song off of that album. By that, I mean, there is no secret that Random Access Memories had the duo go in a direction that no one had ever seen coming. With all the incredible new and funky music off the top, “Contact” being the album’s sendoff is a refreshing reminder of why Daft Punk are the kings of electronic music. The track is a journey in its purest form; for every single second, you are on an adventure that you do not want to get out of. You start with a recording from the Apollo 17 mission, an incredible technologic hook and riff that carries you through the song, and an otherworldly and almost nightmarish outro that takes you to another planet…The feeling you get while listening to the song is indescribable, and I see that as a good thing.
Track 8: “One More Time” (2001)
Now that we have come to the final three songs on the mixtape, I have to list what I think are the three best songs of Daft Punk’s entire repertoire. The first of those is the second-best track off of 2001’s Discovery, “One More Time.” What I really like about this song is that you get all the different flavors of Daft Punk wrapped up into one perfect song. You instantly get hints of early Daft Punk and “Around The World” with the repetition of the title words, mixed in with an ever-funky beat. Moving forward, you get more into the world of Discovery with the use of a true chorus and lyrics that aren’t as robotic as usual. And obviously the album was still a decade away, but you can see how Random Access Memories fits into the song as well with some of the scaling and changes that are seen throughout the song. And as always, I dare you not to dance to it.
Track 9: “Doin’ It Right” (2013)
Say what you will, but “Doin’ It Right” just hits so different than just about everything else that Daft Punk has ever put out. You have the Daft Punk signatures of repetition, incredible bass lines, and an impeccable hook, but put it all together into “Doin’ It Right” and it is still something that hits you like a ton of bricks literally every single time. It is my favorite song to listen to with headphones and my eyes closed. By doing so I can just dissolve into pure feeling, and take what the song is giving to me. And what it gives me is harmony at its finest. So many moving parts, but so simple in its execution, it’s a masterpiece in my opinion. The robotic voices of the duo, the lullaby-like repetition of the hook and the hard-hitting chorus from guest Panda Bear gives you a treat that can be enjoyed with every single listen. I can only think of one Daft Punk song better suited to close out the mixtape than this one…
Track 10: “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” (2001)
And that song is the one you all knew had to be the finisher, Discovery’s “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger.” This song might quite possibly be the best and most popular dance song ever released, and that is definitely a heavy statement. If you don’t recognize this song, perhaps you recognize Kanye West’s “Stronger”? Daft Punk’s song is so good that even the great Kanye West heavily sampled it on one of his tracks. “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” is all about upbeat dance and action. The backbone of the song is a sample of the barely known “Cola Bottle Baby” by Edwin Birdsong. From there the song jumps all over the place while also staying contained and identified. The track is light on the lyrics (like nearly all other Daft Punk songs), but the message is still heard loud and clear. The song was and still is a staple in dance/electronic music around the world…I have come to the conclusion that if you cannot dance to this song, then you most likely do not have feet to even dance on.
And that is it, my Perfect 10! I feel these 10 Daft Punk songs make up a perfect mixtape for the duo. They are their best works, and enough different flavors to make it extremely interesting. If you feel that I missed one of your favorites or think that I am just plain wrong, be sure to let me know! Now if you don’t need me, I am going to go listen to Random Access Memories for the 8 millionth time…