Today the Grammy Award-winning Parisian duo of Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, known around the world as the electronic house band Daft Punk has officially announced the end to their 28-year musical partnership. Keeping in form with their deliberately anonymous yet unapologetically theatric public persona, the pair confirmed the split via a video titled “Epilogue”, which repurposes a scene from their own 2006 avant-garde Sci-Fi film Electroma. In the scene, Bangalter and Homem-Christo, both dressed in their iconic masked robot garb walk one in front of the other along a desert landscape until one of the robots slows down and apparently decides to proceed any further. Reserved and suppressed in its emotion, the scene culminates with the first robot discarding his jacket and exposing a mechanism on his back, which the other robot activates, resulting in the first robot exploding and the remaining robot walking off into the sunset alone. A choral version of Daft Punk’s 2013 song “Touch” plays during the latter robot’s final solitary minutes on screen and a title card displaying the metallic robot gloves of Bangalter and Homem-Christo appears during the end sequence with the dates “1993 – 2021”. Longtime Daft Punk publicist Kathryn Frazier has since confirmed the breakup to music website Pitchfork but no reason for the split has been given.
Without question, Daft Punk was one of the most influential bands in dance music history. Rising to popularity in 1997 with their their first studio album ‘Homework’, they became a fixture of the French house scene and in subsequent years gained even more popularity as they fused house music with other genres such as techno, electronica, rock, synthpop, freestyle and disco. Singles “Da funk” and “Around the World” (both from Homework) were international hits, and Daft Punk’s second album, Discovery (2001) was an even bigger critical and commercial darling, with dance mega-hits “Digital Love”, “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” and “One More Time”. The latter two singles were exemplary of Daft Punk’s growing crossover appeal in other mediums; for example the duo would collaborate with famed Japanese manga/anime artist Leiji Matsumoto to produce Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem, which featured the entirety of the album Discovery as its soundtrack, and conversely, the video for “One More Time” used footage from the film for its video release. Meanwhile, “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” would go on to live a second life as a sample in Kanye West’s 2007 single “Stronger”, which Daft Punk would perform together with West live on stage at the 2008 Grammy Awards.
While their third album, Human After All (2005) would not reach the same level of success or critical acclaim as Discovery, the robots’ star would continue to rise on the road as they toured the world throughout 2006 and 2007. A natural end-product of their travels was the live album Alive 2007, which won a Grammy Award for Best Electronic/Dance Album.
It’s ironic that in the videogame space Daft Punk is probably most recognized for their involvement in the 2010 film Tron: Legacy, a sequel to a Disney film about a fictional videogame that the French duo scored the soundtrack for as well as made a cameo appearance in (as themselves of course). That said, gamers who are also music connoisseurs will be quick to inform anyone that the music of Daft Punk has been a part of videogaming decades, with several of their hit songs appearing across four console generations in esteemed franchises such as Wipeout, DJ Hero, Dance Central, Just Dance, Rock Band, Guitar Hero, Watch Dogs and The NBA 2K series of games. It’s probably even safe to say that many Daft Punk fans first heard their first Daft Punk song while playing a videogame, as opposed to hearing it on the radio, seeing it on TV, or discovering it in an actual dance club.
In 2013, Daft Punk released their fourth studio album, Random Access Memories, whose lead single “Get Lucky” (a disco-infused collaboration between the duo, R&B Artist Pharrell Williams and renowned Chic front-man Nile Rodgers) would crack the top 10 of the billboard charts in 32 countries. The robots subsequently went on to sweep the 2014 Grammy Awards, taking home five awards, including Album of the Year and Record of the Year for “Get Lucky”. In 2016, Daft Punk would achieve their first number one on the Billboard Hot 100 with the song “Starboy”, a collaboration with Canadian Toronto-born artist The Weekend.
Rolling Stone has ranked Daft Punk No. 12 on its list of the 20 Greatest Duos of All Time.