Editorial: How Pharrell is advancing Daft Punk’s vision for EDM
There’s no end to the list of artists inspired by the reemergence of Daft Punk. Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo kept quiet during the early stages of EDM’s stateside explosion — they weren’t answering questions about “how incredible it is that dance music is popular in America” or responding to any “your live sets are prerecorded” criticism. Instead, they were in Paris, New York, and Los Angeles working on the material many perceive as dance music’s next phase of acceptance.
Suiting up in their sequined Yves Saint Laurent jackets and signature helmets, the French duo entered the scene as robots once more, pushing their mantra forth with their music. The robots got to work, only lacking the physical voice to help stamp their declaration. Then they met Pharrell Williams at one of Madonna’s parties and the rest would be history. Pharrell may be responsible for the lyrics of the globally revered “Get Lucky,” but the importance of his spoken word extends far beyond the charts. Williams has become a ventriloquist of sorts for two iconic robot heads, vocalizing Daft Punk’s vision for EDM — a vision that conveniently parallels his own as a veteran musician and admirer of electronica.
First breaking silence for his episode of the Collaborators video series, Pharrell had been insistent of a fantasy, illustrating Daft Punk as if they were characters in The Jetsons and referencing their new music as if it were an inter-dimensional symphony. Now that the dust of the Indio desert has settled, he has finally revealed the duo as human, their music as reality, and the shared vision that produced “Get Lucky” to be molding the future of electronic music.
In a recent interview with Fast Company, The Neptunes producer proclaims his love for EDM while criticizing its authenticity — speaking for both himself and Daft Punk:
“We both feel this way; like music has gotten into this very comfortable, stagnant place where everything is EDM or everything is trap music. I love trap music and I have a great appreciation for EDM.”
Bangalter himself has even admitted that electronic music is in a “comfort zone,” and that’s “not what artists are supposed to do.” Sharing the same attitude towards the broad scope of music and the unavoidable roar of EDM that comes with it — Daft Punk allow Pharrell to speak on their behalf. So he pleads what the French duo has pleaded in their few exclusive interviews; that is the lack of “guts” in modern music, a gap that has widened enough to force a pivot of the electronic climate. “When things become that everything looks the same, that means there’s a huge earthquake coming, of change and difference,” Pharrell points to the near future, where he expects guts to fall through the gap.
Williams has worked on Grammy-nominated records with everyone from Jay-Z to Mariah Carey, providing an eye-witness account of historical shifts in the musical landscape. Having experienced enough of the past to anticipate the future and with the credibility instilled by two of the genre’s most trusted artists, Pharrell removes EDM from isolation:
“Every 5 years music changes, every 10 years the decade before becomes completely unrecognizable… If you look another 20 years, old things come in reincarnation. Techno, disco. Disco, techno, EDM.”
Acknowledging that the element of change in music doesn’t discriminate against genres, Pharrell hints that he and Daft Punk have identified that point for EDM. But where humans meet robots, Pharrell and Daft Punk find the formula that will shape the inevitable change in music and that involves removing the braggadocious swag that clutters hip-hop, restoring the groove that once existed in mainstream dance music, and renewing a sense of discovery and wonder as two separate world collide.
They’ve already applied their theory in the studio, and now that it’s been tested and proven with “Get Lucky,” Pharrell’s forecast is indicative of how the reserved robots are leading the public adjustment. And while he initially portrayed “Get Lucky” as a dreamy scene with a happy, celibate couple watching the sunrise on the beach, Williams clears the fun visuals from the mega-hit to expose the emotion that they are reinstating to music.
Pharrell returns to earth from the “multitude of realms of possibility and alternate directions,” where he claims Thomas and Guy reside, to decipher their first step in redirecting music. “I want to humble it down and be really human about it. Not be like the tough guy with 30 bottles of champagne that he will never drink,” says Pharrell, subtly shaming popular rap counterparts and removing any preconceived notion of a hip-hop bias. Revealing the humanity of their collaboration, he details “Get Lucky” as a record with soul:
“More human, like there is a slight bit of insecurity, like “I don’t know if this is going to happen for me, so I want to get lucky.” The music’s live and the lyrics are more human, and it’s not as angular as a lot of the EDM stuff that’s all synthetic.”
A gospel truth has been revealed – or rather, acknowledged – through the young lifespan of “Get Lucky,” and Pharrell takes on the voice of not only Daft Punk, but the electronic community as a whole when he criticizes the good and bad of the movement that has devoured the globe over the past five years.
Amidst his interview with Fast Company, Pharrell mocks a sound that represents a progressive house build but, rather than mimicking a drop, he follows with a “drugs, drugs, drugs” chant while laughing to himself. He once again asserts his respect for EDM, ostensibly able to joke about the genre’s sensitivities but understanding that its solutions just may lay in sight.
Where many artists are reprimanded for referencing the drugs that saturate the scene, Pharrell opens up confidently without fear of shattering the delicate market: “I’m just from the era where the music was the stimulant — that’s what [Daft Punk] represent.”
He collects his thoughts during his past two weeks of rapid-fire press sessions and brings them full circle for a statement to Rolling Stone: “I think more than anything else I’m just excited about the change, a new wave in music,” Pharrell begins to lay out the future through Daft Punk’s prism. “There’s something happening in the ether, and you know about it or you don’t. And if you know, it’s because you’re probably somewhere engineering the change,” he continues, “If you don’t know about it then you’re probably somewhere missing your call, and you’re gonna end up chasing it.”