Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories and the Problem of Hype
By: GPS and Kat Bein
Sir Isaac Newton once said “what goes up, must come down.” That’s the problem with hype: it gets so big and overbearing, when reality sets in, there’s nothing left for you but disappointment.
In the past few years, one name has been hyped more than any other in the dance music community. That name is Daft Punk.
Since the last tour in 2007 (which was only the second), every major festival spawns rumors of a Daft Punk appearance. It happened all of once, during a Phoenix show at Madison Square Garden in 2010 (which makes sense, considering Daft Punk’s Thomas and Guy used to play in a band with Phoenix guitar-player Laurent Brancowitz).
The duo’s Tron: Legacy soundtrack was preceded by a deluge of fake leaks and copy-cats. Similarly, the lead single from upcoming release Random Access Memories, “Get Lucky,” has been the subject of numerous remixes and false-alarms, even with just 30 seconds of music available.
Interesting to note, the band does almost nothing to inspire such obsession. They never talk, never show their faces, and yet they’re the most enigmatic figures in modern music. It’s their mystery which allows for such fan-fueled insanity. But is all this absurd clamor and anticipation really a good thing?
We as fans, both old and new, really have no idea what the robots are up to. The hype has grown beyond all logical reason, as if Random Access Memories will obviously be some game-changing release, destined to fix the stale state of dance music, unifying our fractured scenes with one glorious and life-affirming mission statement that leads us to a happier ever after.
But reality looks more like this: Hype could kill this album before it’s even out.
Yes, hype can be a great tool when marketing a new release, but as with this current molly explosion, too much of any substance is a bad thing.
Finally, we have the official release of “Get Lucky,” and already, we see the backlash bubbling. Our Facebook news feeds are filled with critical comments about Pharrell’s vocals, lame-duck rising actions, and comments like “Do these people really like the new Daft Punk, or is it just the popular thing to do?”
Overblown hype is already turning into skeptical sideways glances. You built it up to be a savior, and now all you can think is, “What if it’s just a decent album?”
Suddenly, a decent album – even a great one – is not good enough.
Daft Punk is not a part of this EDM insanity. Daft Punk starred in Gap commercials and Toonami specials in the early ‘00s. They headlined Coachella before “EDM” was part of our cultural lexicon, their previous tour being only standard, dark-room turntable functions in 1997.
Yes, Alive 2007 really did change the musical lives of a lot of people, and Guy’s production credits and influence on Justice’s † did help usher in a dance music renaissance. But that renaissance is over, no matter what Daft Punk – or anyone – does now.
It was a renaissance then because of the way things were. Dance music wasn’t on the radar. Dance music, as it evolved in 2006 and 2007, had literally never been heard before. Today, the airwaves are inundated with the sounds of that movement’s many children, and it’s a high-point for those of us who always believed it could happen. But the magic spark of something new is gone, and Daft Punk isn’t going to bring it back.
Daft Punk will survive the EDM recession, because they never were a part of the explosion. They were the precursor, the foundation, and their style will resonate for generations to come as something larger, just as it always has.
Daft Punk doesn’t insert itself into the landscape of contemporary EDM, and contemporary EDM should be wary of projecting its predictions and expectations onto Daft Punk. They don’t care what music is being made; they care about what music plays in their minds. Random Access Memories is simply the fourth in a continuing installment in a very conceptual career, the analog answer to Human After All’s synthetic experiment.
All we mean to say is this: Have an open mind. Take in the upcoming album for what it’s worth. Don’t go buy the album and expect your life to be changed. Buy the album and expect to hear some good tunes. If we’re all “here for the music,” then let’s hear it first. It would be sad to see the first Daft Punk album in eight years be panned or looked down upon because it’s not what we all thought it would be, instead of celebrating it for what it is, and moving on.
Daft Punk is not the unifying theory. Daft Punk is not going to save EDM from its inevitable downward spiral. Daft Punk is two guys who like making music together, along with some friends. They are, indeed, human after all, and we should accept them as such.