This best Daft Punk songs list regroups the Duo’s most memorable tracks. Through the years, Thomas Bangalter & Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo have managed to surprise the listener with original sounds, without forsaking their authenticity. Daft Punk need no presentation. The way they have shaped electronic music in its early years and have continued to transform it until today, proves they’re one of the most iconic groups the genre has given birth to. From their early years to mainstream success, Daft Punk have defined the sound of the 1990s and 2000s successively, and continue to be considered as one of the genre’s most associated acts. That’s why we took the time to analyze and give you our best daft punk songs list of a (unfinished) prolific career.
THE BEst Daft Punk SONGS: The Homework Era
1. Da Funk
Carrying Daft Punk’s debut, Homework, which was released in 1997, a list of the French Duo’s best songs can’t exclude what we would consider as their trademark song. Immersed in the streets of New York by a sample, you don’t have the time to get bored when one of Daft Punk’s most iconic lead synths kicks in. The rest of the track is a succession of well-constructed drum loops, filtered and heavy bass-lines, thumping kicks, jumpy chords and… noise. A seemingly chaotic, modulated and distorted lead is implemented midway through the track. Accompanying the listener until the end, it reflects the overall dark vibe, that is in tune with the track’s video clip (directed by Spike Jonze); an anthropomorphic dog wandering through the streets of New York by himself.
Homework, the original Daft Punk sound
2. Rollin’ & Scratchin’
True Daft Punk fans will understand why this track made our list. 7:28 minutes of pure noise are a true reflection of what Daft Punk were about at their beginnings in the 1990s. Underappreciated is a euphemism when you consider how this track remains interesting and relevant up until today while using a limited palette of musical elements; the modulation of a screeching sound (most probably created with the astute combination of a Juno 106 synthesizer and a distortion pedal). Paired with this, is a symphony of really distorted oscillator synths and 808 kicks which makes this one of the French duo’s most techno oriented tracks.
The Juno 106 synthesizer
3. Around The World
A classic. This may be one of the first Daft Punk songs many of you have heard. It’s probably also the track that propelled the duo to stardom. Yet it doesn’t stand out in terms of complexity. Besides the groovy baseline (influenced by the disco band Chic), the iconic pluck and the repetitive lyrics (occurring 144 times in the original mix!), it is another well thought music video, directed by French Director and Screenwriter Michel Gondry that will popularize the track. Throughout their career, it is the genius of Daft Punk to invest a lot of effort in creating thoughtful music videos that solidified their presence as a cultural phenomenon. After all, who would have thought of featuring dancers in robot and skeleton outfits, dancing circularly and frantically to a house beat?
THE BEst Daft Punk SONGS: The Discovery Era
4. Indo Silver Club
Also featured on Daft Punk’s debut record Homework, “Indo Silver Club” is a true gem, that is an underappreciated track for reasons that remain unknown. What is there not to like about a track that uses real time distortion, classic French house filtering, while also perfectly representing that 90s hardware sound with the Roland TB-303? Ingeniously sampling Karen Young’s “Hot Shot”, this track still constitutes the perfect warmup tune for any DJ set. More recently, “Colombians” by the Gorillaz reminds us of the timelessness of this sound, as it clearly draws inspiration from Daft Punk’s “Indo Silver Club”.
The Roland TB-303 synthesizer
The 2000s were a new era for Daft Punk, with a much more disco oriented sound that nonetheless continued to rely on the wise selection of samples. In 2001, the release of Discovery challenged Daft Punk’s “Chicago House” sound. Discovery marked a new step in the French duo’s exploration of art and sound, taking significant inspiration from Japanese culture, and anime in particular. In turn, the album music will perfectly fit Leiji Matsumoto’s anime brainchild Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem. The track “Aerodynamic” is probably less known than the album opener “One More Time”, but both the iconic solo electric guitar rift and the soothing outro arpeggiator make this track spark more melancholy in our minds. What many of you probably ignore is that it even has its own “sequel”, “Aerodynamite”, released in the remix album Daft Club, two years later.
Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem
6. Digital Love
Another Discovery track, another iconic guitar solo. “Digital Love” reconnects with the Duo’s iconic vocoder usage, albeit in a different fashion than on Homework. In its structure, Discovery is more popish than everything the duo had released until now. “Digital Love” is the perfect illustration of this new sound, which also offers more meaningful lyrics. If “Aerodynamic” is the party with upbeat music, “Digital Love” represents the regrets or what could have been, the hangover and its discontents. Once again the French Duo makes original use of sampling with George Duke’s “I Love You More”, recalling the nostalgia of 70s R&B and funk. The ethereal hazy pads at the start and end of the song can be associated with a more mature Daft Punk sound; gravitating much more towards electronic melody than previously.
7. Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger
This track is probably best remembered for its use in Kanye West’s “Stronger” hit, featured on his 2007 album Graduation. While gaining traction from it, the original track in itself is iconic for many reasons. The looped sample at the start perfectly introduces the funky beat (sampling Edwin Birdsong ‘s “Cola Bottle Baby”) that follows. The lyrics are quite mechanical and repetitive. They’re representative of the duo’s robotic identity but can also be seen as a deeper analogy of work in factories and the capitalist system. Minimalism is key; a groovy beat that is sampled and some intricately vocoded words lead the melodic progression. For this track (and many others on the same album), Daft Punk rediscovers 1970s and 1980s classics. It follows that Discovery can both be interpreted both as the re-discovery of classic disco tracks, but also separated in two telling words, “disco” and “very”.
8. Something About Us
“Something About Us” is a downtempo ballad that remains one of the duo’s most heartfelt tracks. Less energetic than other songs on Discovery, it has a more nostalgic vibe to it. This is owed in great part to the sentimental introductory chords, the signature vocoded pluck lead and a groovy bass. The melodic progression in this track is particularly strong, as a filtered counter melody paves the way for the duo’s meaningful vocals. Once the lyrics set in, both Thomas and Guy-Man exchange a poetic and somewhat lyrical romantic declaration. While the “it might not be the right time, I might not be the right one” can be interpreted as a universal declaration of love, it could also very well be a love declaration by Daft Punk for Daft Punk. “Something About us” is also one of Daft Punk’s songs where vocals are more present. In the outro part of the track, a beautiful guitar solo is added to sublimate an already other-worldly journey.
While we’re not exactly sure if “Voyager” was named after the NASA space probe, this song carries the same kind of euphoria which the idea of outer space exploration triggers in our minds. Playing immediately after “Something About Us” on Discovery, it is also a track which is in stark contrast with the latter. Uplifting, dynamic and bouncy, “Voyager” is a song that features a great amount of side chain compression, which paired with a funky bassline makes it one of the most disco songs on the Discovery record. On this track, the chord progression is also much more hopeful. The arp which kicks in at 02:16 is one of the more memorable arp and melody line the French duo has ever produced. Once again, Daft Punk makes great use of layering with few but complementary musical elements in a convincing final part.
10. Face To Face
Featuring vocals by Todd Edwards , “Face To Face” proves that Daft Punk doesn’t simply use old samples because they lack inspiration. Every time an old element is borrowed, it is put to good use by thoughtful composition and song writing. In this case, the short snippet from “Evil Woman” by Electric Light Orchestra is given a new life alongside the futuristic sampling of Todd Edward’s voice. After an original introductory part featuring a looped sample melody, Edward’s vocals kick in, accompanied by a punchy beat, and an off beat bassline. Melodic call and response is key on this track as Edward’s vocals are answered to by melodic and looped vocal samples. An organic background flute sound towards the end of the track makes this an organic piece of music, that you surely won’t easily forget.
THE BEst Daft Punk SONGS: The Human After All Era
11. Human After All
Often criticized for being less structurally developed than other Daft Punk records, Human After All again revealed Daft Punk’s ability to reinvent themselves and go beyond established rules. Ingeniously meshing rock with dance, Human After All is Daft Punk’s shortest record, while probably being also the less inspiring. Despite the lack of build up (usually a trademark for French house tracks), this record offers some equally iconic tracks. The eponymous “Human After All” is a track that encapsulates the message Daft Punk tries to convey. They want to show themselves integrally. This also implies revealing themselves in their most humane or raw form. Sampling “Heartbreaker” by the obscure Japanese band Teriyaki Boyz, “Human After All” is repetitive, but also moving and melodic. By processing their voices through electric guitars, this track brings the Duo the closest back to their Darlin’ days and their punk side.
Human After All, Daft Punk’s arguably rawest record
THE BEst Daft Punk SONGS: The Random AcceSS Memories Era
Like its name suggests « Emotion » is one of Daft Punk’s most poignant tracks. Despite being utterly repetitive, like most tracks on the Human After All record, the song structure on this one make more sense. This track takes the listener places and this is greatly owed to the chord progression which is centered around two vocoded synthesizers, continuously repeating the word “emotion” in unison. Progressively, new musical instruments are added. A bass sound is followed by a swelling and reversed “Uh” sound, and further synthesizer chords. At 02:17, the climax of the song is reached when a classical 4/4 beat drops in with a slight amount of reverb. This working recipe is repeated another time. Less known than other Daft Punk songs, “Emotion” is a track which holds a special place in this list, reemphasizing the meaning and essence of Human After All.
13. Give Life Back to Music
In 2013, Daft Punk made their return with Random Access Memories. RAM is Daft Punk’s coming of age, an album which was praised by critics and fans alike. After a long hiatus, the French Duo’s sound on this record comes off as more mature and complete. “Give Life Back To Music” is the opening track which sets the tone for the rest of the album. Remaining funky and disco, this track symbolizes a more elegant, professional and polished Daft Punk sound. It benefits from a collaboration with Chic’s iconic guitarist, Niles Rodgers who contributes with memorable guitar riffs. In an era where repetitive big rooms hooks were becoming increasingly popular and played in front of festival crowds, Daft Punk wanted to “give life back to music”. By producing a stellar song structure, with a legendary intro, organic sounding instruments and the reintroduction of the Daft’s iconic vocoders, the bet really paid off.
Random Access Memories, Daft Punk’s more pop oriented record
14. Giorgio by Moroder
RAM also symbolized Daft Punk’s desire to pay homage to the « Father of Disco », Giorgio Moroder. Featuring recordings of Moroder’s voice the duo eases the listener into the story of disco music. Once Moroder states that « My name is Giovanni Giorgio, but everyone calls me Giorgio » over a click sound, the seemingly calm intro disappears in favor of a layered Moog Modular synthesizer arp. What will follow is a fusion of orchestral synth chords, punchy bass sounds, guitar snippets, and electric pianos in a lyrical journey to self-discovery. By changing the style drastically at several occasions (even including elements of jazz), Giorgio goes on by stating that “Once you free your mind about a concept of harmony and of music being correct, you can do whatever you want”. The epic final part of the track further highlights how Daft Punk aren’t bound by any rules to express themselves musically.
The Iconic Moog Modular
15. Get Lucky
When you think about the year 2013 in music, there’s one song you can’t possibly ignore. “Get Lucky”, the collaboration with Pharrell Williams is probably the most pop oriented and radio friendly song featured on RAM. The song in itself isn’t particularly novel or groundbreaking, but it brings a popular 70s and 80s funk-disco sound back to life. A fun fact worth noting is the music video for this song which is static for the most part, except when the Daft’s legendary vocoder kicks. The duo then starts performing alongside Niles Rodgers and Pharrell Williams in a sunset lit desert. As Pharrell Williams sings “like the legend of the phoenix, all ends with beginnings”, you recall Daft Punk’s career and their ability to consistently reinvent themselves. The meaningful lyrics sung by Pharrell Williams and the energetic guitar riffs by Niles Rodger’s give a nostalgic feeling and easily explains the song’s widespread success.
We hope you enjoyed our take on the best Daft Punk songs. It is worth noting that this Daft Punk list of songs doesn’t include all memorable tracks the duo has ever released. We only included the 4 main LP’s released by the French duo.There are many honorable mentions on Alive 2007 we didn’t include in this article, which you might think would have been a better fit. You can also read more about our take on the best daft punk albums and our random access memories review. Let us know in the comments section which are your favorite Daft Punk songs!