Friday, August 26, 2011

August 26: Daft Punk, "Da Funk"

Artist: Daft Punk
Song: "Da Funk"
Album: Da Funk (single)
Year: 1995

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Though it is clearly difficult to create a completely unique and original sound within any musical style, one can argue that in the world of electronic music, this task is even more trying, as there are certain perceived limitations that hold a majority of songs in a similar musical space.  However, as is the reality with every musical genre, the truly great artists find ways around these trends, and their creations are what enable the various musical styles of progress forward with the passing decades.  While one can easily argue that there is no other genre filled with more sub-standard music, it can also be said that this reality makes the great artists easier to spot, and there is no question that within the world of electronic music, few performers can old their own against Daft Punk.  Though in modern music, they are a rather well-known name, in their early years, the group struggled as much as any other, as the style of music was not anywhere near as widely accepted as it is today.  However, it was during the middle and late 1990's that the group found their sound, and while many of their more recent efforts have received well-earned accolades, it was during these earlier years where Daft Punk made their finest recordings, as well as those that have become the blueprint for modern electronic music.  Though it is often overshadowed by their latest recordings, there is no other song in the history of electronic music that stands as vital to the development of the genre as one can hear within Daft Punk's 1995 single, "Da Funk."

One of the key elements that sets Daft Punk aside from their peers is how intentionally atmospheric their recordings are, as it seems that each of their songs has a very specific intent and origin.  In the case of "Da Funk," the opening of the track sounds as if the song is emanating from a boom box on the streets, and this tone carries through every other aspect of the song.  Before the main section of the track drops in, there is a stripped down, almost "tin" tone to "Da Funk" which makes this "boom box reference" sound even more authentic, and it is also this sound which kicks off the unparalleled sense of movement that can be experienced on the track.  The voices and sounds that sit behind the music itself strike an ideal balance, and their presence would be further explored in the songs' music video.  However, it is the fact that even when these background noises are absent, the mood itself stays completely intact, that proves the true brilliance of "Da Funk," and it stands as one of the most humble tracks in history, as the group have managed to create unheralded power within repetition and slight augmentations.  The sense of movement found all across "Da Funk" enables the track to be just as powerful walking down a city street as it is in a packed dance club, and it is in this idea where one can understand how Daft Punk were able to push the boundaries on the electronic genre, cementing it as a pop style onto itself.

However, "Da Funk" is not entirely about mood, as the arrangements and progressions created by the team of Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter are without question some of the finest ever recorded.  It is the way that the pair are able to take the seemingly faded style of "synth-pop" and breath into it an entirely new life that is one of the most staggering elements of "Da Funk," as if one strips away some of the technology, the track would have fit in perfectly with the music scene a decade earlier.  The way that the synthesizers bounce all over the song makes "Da Funk" just as enjoyable even after repeated listenings, and in many ways, this is why one cannot deny the status of the track as a "pop" song.  It is also the perfectly toned bassline which grooves all over the place which makes "Da Funk" so unforgettable, and the combined hook created by these two elements makes the song impossible to forget.  The hook is rather simple, yet it is the sound and attitude which Daft Punk give it that make it one of the handful of progressions that once heard, are impossible to shake from your head.  It is also the way that the pair deploy what are almost break-beats across the track that have cemented its place as a dance club fixture, and even almost two decades after its initial release, few electronic tracks even come close to the sheer perfection that Homem-Christo and Bangalter achieved on "Da Funk."

Truth be told, there are a number of different versions of "Da Funk" that can be found over the past decade plus, and this is also largely due to the songs' overall greatness.  The original version is nothing more than the brilliant musical arrangement, and yet one of the most commonly heard versions of the song features the voice-overs and other elements that were present within the songs' music video.  The problem with this version is that the music itself becomes somewhat disjointed, as the flow is interrupted at points by elements that work perfectly within the visual interpretation of the song, but not as well within the strictly audio experience.  One can also find a pair of different mixes of the "full length" version of the song, as well as a "radio edit," and a number of other variations on "Da Funk."  However, while each of these certainly has their own appeal, it is the original cut that is without question the finest, and it remains just as enjoyable and captivating today as it did well over a decade ago.  This is in many ways the most telling testament to the greatness of the track, as moreso than any other genre, electronic music seems to have less "staying power," and therefore those songs that persist can be seen as truly exceptional examples of the style.  Though in recent years it has been their stunning visual presentations that have garnered them international acclaim, there is no question that the true spirit and talent of Daft Punk was at its apex within their groundbreaking 1995 single, "Da Funk."

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