The electronic pop duo Daft Punk. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)
It's been eight years since Daft Punk's last album, seven since its last brain-melting performance at Coachella, and less than a week since the band's advertisement for the forthcoming "Random Access Memories" sent Indio-goers into a collective swoon. So after all that anticipation, the real star of its return single is...Nile Rodgers of Chic?
That's no knock on the song. The disco maven Rodgers offers up some seriously tasty funk licks on "Get Lucky," the retro-futurist track and first full cut from the album to emerge in the wild (and as of now, iTunes). But it does suggest the degree to which Daft Punk is curating as much as crafting "Random Access Memories."
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The now public list of Daft Punk's album collaborators -- Rodgers, Pharrell Williams (who sings on the track), house producer Todd Edwards, Animal Collective's Panda Bear, "Rainbow Connection" songwriter Paul Williams and a whole flock of '70s and '80s session ninjas -- is formidable, and was perhaps cause for some fears of musical outsourcing. But "Get Lucky," which sort of debuted in pieces in a few well-placed TV and Web advertisements, shows just how deftly the French duo put all those pieces together.
Remarkably, it still sounds entirely like Daft Punk, even though the duo give the prime cuts of this tune to others. Rodgers is famous for his steamy guitar sound, a clean Fender played high on the neck with exacting syncopation. That tone is the heart of "Get Lucky," and it's kind of a fulfillment of the circle of life in dance music. Chic is the kind of group whose music Daft Punk might have sampled in the late '90s, and now that they're global megastars, why not hire the man himself?
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Vocally, Pharrell Williams gives one of his more restrained performances, and his high falsetto timbre falls right in line with past Daft Punk vocalists and melody-men like Romanthony and Edwards. The lyrics are a goofy incantation of how Pharrell is taking to outer space to get laid, which is an excellent summary of Daft Punk's mission with this tune - lusty feelings with a license to time-travel.
But the more interesting thing is what the song's collaborative alchemy says about how Daft Punk works. Early interviews suggest that for the band, "Random Access Memories" was all about live instrumentation and re-creating the big-budget glory days of the disco, funk and rock studio heyday. Now that everything on pop radio and clubland sounds like their early '00s work, that's a perfectly contrarian move that few other acts could even attempt today (recording budget reasons above all).
But in a way, Daft Punk here is thinking more like classic house DJs than it ever has. It's taking the distinct sounds of others and positioning them to set a mood and emotion all their own.
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