10 years after its release, Daft Punk’s celebrated Random Access Memories has another level of substance, as it is now officially the duo’s final album together following the announcement of their split in 2021. The duo is still missed from the music scene today, but in retrospect, the album has established itself as the duo’s glorious farewell to the game as they pay tribute to their deepest musical origins.
Random Access Memories is strongly reminiscent of 1970s and 1980s American music, separating itself from Daft Punk’s previous catalogue, which is characterised by electronic French House as heard in Homework (1997), Discovery (2001), and Human After All (2005). However, Random Access Memories is not unconnected from their previous works, rather, it pays homage to how previous musical styles played a formative role in developing the duo’s sound as well as contributing to present genres. At a time when the spirit of disco was subdued, the album is immersed in the sounds of late 1970s disco music, which would become fundamental in the emergence of danceable and uplifting house music later on. In this way, Random Access Memories takes listeners on a musical and thematic journey that traces the roots of their roots to explore what they are made of.
‘Giorgio by Moroder’ is a 9-minute masterpiece which represents the core theme of the album; the track features a monologue by Giorgio Moroder, “the Father of Disco” himself. As Moroder speaks about his early life and career and experimenting with the synthesiser to make music, his narration is accompanied by sparkling and spiralling synth riffs. The synth riffs are gradually layered with tight drums, guitar strumming and dramatic orchestration, symbolising the use of synthesisers in propelling the technological evolution of popular music (pop, rock, funk, R&B, etc.) During the song, Moroder says “I knew that could be a sound of the future. But I didn't realise how much the impact would be.” The impact is that his introduction of the synthesiser paved the way for many musicians, including Daft Punk.
Alongside this retrospective theme, Daft Punk delivers a colourful experience in Random Access Memories. There is ‘The Game of Love,’ a smooth but heart-wrenching ballad about realising a partner’s love after the relationship ends. The Fleetwood Mac and Doobie Brothers-esque soft rock track ‘Fragments of Time’ is also an unforgettable mention. Instrumental performance in the album, as demonstrated in the orchestra in tracks like “Beyond” and “Motherboard,” adds gorgeous glitter to the sound. ‘Touch,’ featuring Paul Williams, takes a more progressive and jazzy approach. The multifaceted ballad packs many musical episodes and tones, including Williams’ sombre and dramatic longing for the “touch” of another.
However, Daft Punk’s genius burns the brightest in the album’s danceable disco tracks. For example, ‘Instant Crush,’ which features Julian Casablancas from The Strokes, and ‘Lose Yourself to Dance,’ which features Pharrell Williams, are smooth and timeless mid-tempo tracks. The latter track brings in the theme of talking to their inspirations, with the angelic synth line and Nile Rodgers’ tight and funky guitar strumming easily reminding listeners of the rainbow dance floor and mirrorball. And lastly, the impeccable chart hit banger, “Get Lucky.” The duo’s disco rendition is sublimely executed with sophisticated production, spot-on features and polished performance.
What makes Random Access Memories especially remarkable is that Daft Punk also managed to achieve massive critical and commercial success with this album. It won the 2014 Grammy Album of the Year (which is a surprisingly valid choice from the Recording Academy considering the other albums that have), as well as both Billboard 200 and UK Albums Chart, with the single ‘Get Lucky’ being ranked 2nd in Billboard Hot 100). Random Access Memories was as sophisticated as it was catchy. The duo’s achievement with this album is doubly significant when considering how it gave their immense listener base an insightful opportunity to experience their origins, taking them through styles, countries and decades.
10 years after its release, it seems as though the legacy of Random Access Memories still greatly contributes to pop music. Since 2020, the pop music scene has often seen nostalgic and disco-influenced tracks on the chart, which are reminiscent of ‘Get Lucky’ or ‘Lose Yourself to Dance.’ For example, The Weeknd, who is one of the few artists that Daft Punk collaborated with after Random Access Memories, changed his direction from the contemporary R&B style to a more 80s pop and disco-inspired sound. His latest saga consisting of After Hours (2020) and Dawn FM (2022), as well as his upcoming album has pushed him to become one of the most recognisable pop musicians around the world.
Similarly, Dua Lipa established her stardom with her 2020 dance-pop album Future Nostalgia (literally with the word nostalgia), and ever since, her music career has been heavily influenced by nostalgic disco sound (just like her new Barbie soundtrack number ‘Dance the Night’). Disco styles have been adopted by many pop stars: consider Carly Rae Jepsen’s career since her album Emotion (2015), several takes from Lady Gaga’s latest album Chromatica (2020) and Calvin Harris’s Funk Wav Bounces series. Much like how disco luminaries such as Chic and ABBA paved the way for Daft Punk, Daft Punk’s final album has paved the way for current pop stars: reanimating the past whilst paying homage to them. In doing so, Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories expressives themselves whilst protecting the legacy of what inspired them.
Edited by Akane Hayashi, Music Editor