Daft Punk is a household name for music nerds now, and all the kids on the playground wear helmets and robot suits and speak French. Their sophomore album Discovery was a massive hit with four big singles still sampled and heard in movies and stuff, and they scored Tron: Legacy, which was the best thing about Tron: Legacy. In 1997, though, Daft Punk were one of the handful of acts said to be the future of music, part of the “electronica” boom that was supposed to be the next big thing in music, the new grunge or the new punk, even though it was robot music made by robots.
The bands that rose to immediate, moderate fame as part of this wave: the Chemical Brothers and The Prodigy. These acts were able to bridge the gap between rock and electronic-based music by savvily recruiting rock stars to sing on their songs (Noel Gallagher of Oasis on the Chemical Brothers’ “Setting Sun”) or they had members who looked like factory-created rock stars (Keith Flint of the Prodigy, who is a firestarter; a twisted firestarter). Daft Punk, primarily an electronic band who does electronic takes on rock tropes, made their big mainstream debut with “Da Funk,” which is essentially a hard rock song that you can dance to, with thumping electro-beats but riff-giddy electric guitars. In other words, a perfect bridge between the old and the new. It even had an accessible video, because it was funny, and because it was directed by Spike Jonze, just coming off a four-year run of being the most innovative and famous music video director for things like Weezer’s “Buddy Holly” and the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage.”
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And yet “Da Funk,” and Daft Punk, and that sad man-dog were all overlooked. “Da Funk” did go to #1 on the club play chart, and went top 10 in England and France, but could not get in the house (see what I did there?) in the U.S, which is ironic because Daft Punk’s intention with this song was to create an American-style hip-hop song (which they called a funk song, but ended up making a rock song).