Listen to this track by masked and anonymous Parisian disco-electro twosome, Daft Punk. It’s their made-for-summertime single “Get Lucky” as taken from their long-awaited 2013 record Random Access Memories. The song features vocals by Pharell Williams, a vocalist, songwriter, and one-half of The Neptunes production team.
Also joining them on this track is the one and only Nile Rodgers playing that impossibly funky rhythm guitar part that only he can play. If only they could have got Bernard Edwards and Tony Thompson too for the full on Chic effect, although that bass part played by Nathan East nails that Edwards style. But, that’s the thing with this song, and with the rest of the record as well; it is very conscious of its inspirations.
This tune is unabashedly 20th century, with ’70s disco, and ’80s electro being the main courses, supplemented by fender rhodes soft rock textures and real drums, as played by Omar Hakim no less, to supplement the duo’s characteristic vocoders, drum machines, samplers and synths.
There seems to be quite a lot of sentimentality on this record as a whole, with a number of other contributions and references to bygone eras to be found therein.
Since it was released, it’s almost understood that this song is indeed the theme to the summer of 2013. Even before the album came out, I’d heard it everywhere; shared on Facebook, on indie radio, and even on the CBC in between news-related stories about our increasingly wacky government. That’s because it seems to beam with optimism. But, I think it’s also because it harkens back to an age when the idea of formatting, and matching up audience demographics wasn’t such a concern. This song fits everywhere.
The song, and the record off of which it comes is something of tribute to an era when it was possible to have a theme song that captured moments, eras, and that served everyone; young, old, male, female, and on an on. It was a time when everyone knew who singer-songwriter and actor Paul Williams was (and who also guests on the album) because he was on TV shows that everyone watched regularly every week. People knew who Giorgio Moroder (also featured on RAM!) was because “I Feel Love” was both an innovative, and widely recognized hit.
Where music is concerned, there is a lot to be thankful for now that the late ’70s and early ’80s are in the distant past by now; record company tyranny, no Internet, and fewer choices when it comes to consuming media to order are among those things that no one misses. But, like a lot of things in life, there’s a flipside.
One of the key ingredients to radio at that time, and the music made with it in mind, is that is was designed to be consumed communally across a wider spectrum. That’s what’s really at the heart of this song; that spirit of connection that perhaps is also a thing of the past when it comes to the playlists of a nation, or of a planet. As the band have stipulated, that’s what to “get lucky” means in this song; to make a connection.
And perhaps too that’s what motivated Daft Punk’s decision to work with real musicians, more so than fall back on technology as they’ve done in the past. Luckily, they’d done a lot of work to build a connection to the kind of music that someone like Nile Rodgers helped to pioneer since they began. And it was the mutual respect they shared with him that produced the results you’re hearing here.
Despite the passage of years, those disco and electro grooves that got people moving the eras when they were first heard does the very same thing now. In the 21st century, if you’re just discovering it now, it’s new – for you. The passage of time doesn’t affect that one way or another. Everyone gets lucky, then.
To learn more, check out the Daft Punk official site, featuring Random Access Memories.
And, just in case you’re curious, here’s a theory on why Daft Punk have to keep their masks on, according to the Village Voice.
Thanks to Sony Canada for sending along a digital download of the album.