Daft Punk is one of the most influential musical act of the last 20 years. Dance and electronic music defines the musical movement of our era. It's leaked into rock, rap and even country. It is the pop sound of the day, and Daft Punk has most certainly played a heavy hand in that sonic domination.
At almost every turn, and with almost every release in its career, Daft Punk has been derided by critics only to be hailed in years to come. Daft Punk is the kind of band other bands write songs about (looking at you, LCD Soundsystem). When Skrillex accepted his first Grammy, he was all “I think Daft Punk should have won Grammys.” The French duo invented the concept of the bedroom producer with its first album Homework in 1997, yet Daft Punk has had only two tours in 20 years, the second of which launched the modern dance music stage production concept.
Its latest album, Random Access Memories, reignited the careers of legends Nile Rogers and Giorgio Moroder and sparked a return to live dance instrumentalism that continues to catch among a younger generation. Pick any Daft Punk song or album from its 20-year history, and it sounds good enough to be released tomorrow. Daft Punk is conceptual, simple, cinematic, and timeless. Ranking this music is almost impossible, but here are Billboard's top 20 Daft Punk songs.
#20 - "Doin’ It Right" feat. Panda Bear
Panda Bear is iconic as an experimental electronic artist both for his solo work and in his band Animal Collective. Guess what group sparked his interest in the genre? He admitted in an interview he’d asked Daft Punk to remix both an Animal Collective and Panda Bear song, though the duo declined both offers. The robots made up for it with an invite to Paris for the Random Access Memories recording sessions. “Doin’ It Right” was the final song recorded for the LP. It’s the sweetest ode to letting go, a perfect dance floor call for wallflowers the world over.
#19 - "Phoenix"
Before Daft Punk, members Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo were in a rock trio called Darlin’. One critic reviewed the band as “a bunch of daft punk.” Darlin’ broke up, and Daft Punk was created in a nod to that review. The third guy, Laurent Brancowitz, eventually became famous as the guitarist of French alt rock band Phoenix. That has no relation, as far as we know, to this incredibly beautiful funk beat from the electronic duo’s debut album, but it is a good excuse to tell the story. This Homework deep cut features one of Daft Punk’s best walking basslines underneath a signature rhythmic repetition. It is not to be overlooked.
#18 - "Instant Crush" feat. Julian Casablancas
We actually really like Julian Casablancas' synth pop solo stuff, but he left the electronics to Daft Punk on this titanic collaboration. The Strokes' frontman does provide the lead guitar and, of course, the beautifully-pained, love-sick vocals. Daft Punk approached the singer with a demo and a clear storyline as far back as when recording the Tron: Legacy soundtrack. It all came together perfectly in the studio as one of RAM's most inwardly infectious moments.
#17 - "Make Love"
Human After All, as a concept, is brilliant. It's the duo's harshest electronic sound, yet it explores the group's most humanistic themes. It was initially panned by most reviewers who expected more disco funk in the wake of Discovery's huge success, though, in hindsight, it's jarring, heavy rock influence can be seen throughout the EDM community. “Make Love" is an exception. It's a subtle, sensual take on the LP's themes of repetition. Piano, drum machine, and funk guitar create an atmosphere of pure tenderness. Juxtaposed between “Steam Machine” and “Brainwasher,” two of the album's hardest points, “Make Love” is a moment of sweet stillness.
#16 - "Human After All"
Of course the title track of the album would be its most thematically relevant. Robotic voices sing a simple message of mankind's universal commonality. Nothing sounds organic. Every noise is jagged and electric, even as they play the part of the chunky rock guitar. Human brains operate like highly-advanced computer technology. Human brains use computer technology to create soulful, synthetic sounds. Brilliant. This is the only single from Human After All not to have a proper music video, because what would have been the video turned into the mini-film Electroma. If you like Daft Punk, robots, you don't mind silent films and you find yourself with an hour to kill, I recommend it. Minds blown -- literally.
#15 - "Lose Yourself to Dance" feat. Pharrell
Dance music is all about dancing. It's the name of the genre, and still sometimes people just do a lot of jumping, or fist pumping, or even just standing there. “Lose Yourself to Dance” is a primal call to get fun and funky on the floor. Pharrell is your friend dragging you out when you'd rather sink into the couch. “C'mon, c'mon” the vocoder urges. The song hits its peak with layered robotic vocal harmonies that throw back to Discovery-era textures. It's got great groove, and to think, it's only clocking 100 bpm.
#14 - "Revolution 909"
Not only is this groove totally stellar, “Revolution 909” features the absolute best song intro ever. The sound is muffled through warehouse walls. The cops come to break up the party, but they don't succeed, and soon, you're walking into a stuffy room filled with fresh-faced, carefree, cool kids. Just when you look around through the smoke and lasers in complete wonder, the bass kicks in. This song just conjures every late night adventure I've ever had. I can just see the bodies moving under strobe lights, the sweat-dripped smiles. Those times are as gritty as they are pretty, and so is this beat.
#13 - "Superheroes"
What even is this song? It's got a beat so heavy, it is sometimes reminiscent of hardstyle's affront. The arpeggiated synth comes in like piñata candy that rains in slow motion. There are ray-gun pew pews, space-travel noises. There really is no other song like this I can think of, simultaneously anxiety-inducing and balls-to-the-wall fun. It is like the soundtrack to an interstellar superhero final fight. I spent my entire childhood trying to figure out what these lyrics were saying. Turns out, it's Barry Manilow singing “something's in the air,” from his 1979 deep cut “Who's Been Sleeping in My Bed.” One of life's great mysteries, finally solved.
#12 - "Face to Face"
Just wow. How could you not love this song? All those samples cut up and mashed together to create this awesome, chunky melody. Much of this song's signature style is thanks to Todd Edwards, the American house producer Daft Punk credits as one of its biggest influences. He co-produces and sings on this Discovery favorite, and c'mon. These lyrics? This is what great songwriting is made of.
#11 - "Something About Us"
Any time my buddy plays a closing DJ set, this is the last track he plays. It's honestly the perfect send-off, wrap-up jam. Try it next time you have the chance and watch everyone embrace their friends with happy tears in their eyes. This song expresses something so deep but not often celebrated. We've all had a love like this, the passionately doomed love you know can only fail, but it doesn't really matter. Those loves matter, too. Also, this is the least cheesy smooth jazz funk love song I've ever heard. You know it emulates the weird stuff your parents listened to that made you feel slightly uncomfortable as a kid, and yet, this fits like a warm hug.
#10 - "Robot Rock"
Whenever people complain about sampled music, I ask them, "Do you like Daft Punk's 'Robot Rock'? And of course they say yes, because it's amazing. And then I'm like, “Well, it's basically one giant repetitive sample of Breakwater's 'Release the Beast,' and it doesn't make 'Robot Rock' any less of a dope-ass song that you love.” I can just see Daft Punk listening to that song, like, “Dude! That beat is so good. Loop it again!” Of course, they embellished it with original textures, hit it with some robot voices, hooked a guitar pedal up to a Moog and had some fun. It's one of the most repetitive offerings in the Daft Punk song catalog, but dude, this beat is so good! Loop it again.
#9 - "Technologic"
“Technologic” came out in 2005. It was the beginning of a new era. Music, business and your social life had a completely new set of vocab words. Daft Punk dedicate these lyrics to the wild, new universe of Internet-based creation, collaboration and consumption. Having said lyrics memorized is a true testament to one's Daft Punk fandom. The song became a bigger hit when it was sampled by Busta Rhymes for the track “Touch It.” In the video, we again see the robots blur the lines between humans and computers. That baby bot is the stuff of absolute nightmares. Like, you gave him gums, but not a mouth? What a twisted creator, indeed.
#8 - "Crescendolls"
The fifth track of Discovery is pure rising motion, hence the title, right? The song loops the funkiest break from Little Anthony and the Imperials' “Can You Imagine” and amps the energy to 5 million. It's the sound of rainbow pastel confetti in a ticker-tape parade. It's a sugary cupcake smashed all over your face, and you have to jump up and down to get the icing off. Ironic how Daft Punk juxtapose this overwhelming joy with the complete disassociation of the main characters in Interstellar 5555, the full-length anime counterpart to Discovery's sonic majesty.
#7 - "Aerodynamic"
Can you say “best guitar solo in electronic music history"? Nah, dude. One of the best guitar solos of all time. This song came out in 2001, and I'm pretty sure the world had never heard anything like it. I know it rocked the face off of me and my friends. My dad was like, “Hey, this makes me think of Eddie Van Halen.” Thomas Bangalter noted that the song exists in three parts. The first is an edgy funk build, the second is a rampage of a double-hand heavy metal guitar solo. The two combine beautifully before giving way to the third of “completely baroque music, a classical composition we put into synthetic form.”
#6 - "Da Funk"
Back to Homework and Daft Punk's fabulous use of street sounds and urban nightlife samples. This is the beginning of Daft Punk's great love affair with repetition, layers and funky synthesized roars. Bangalter once quipped that “Da Funk” was the band's attempt at a gangsta rap beat, inspired by the warped G-Funk of Warren G's “Regulate.” Of course, it moves much faster than West Coast herb crushers care to drive. Don't try to interpret the music video. Just enjoy it for what it is.
#5 - "Get Lucky"
The biggest hit and first single from Random Access Memories, “Get Lucky” is the full-circle moment of Daft Punk's career. They'd spent two decades clipping, chopping and rearranging '70s and '80s disco and soul records. Suddenly, they move away from the computers and begin recording soul and funk grooves of their own, and holy crap, they're doing it with Nile Rogers of Chic. Here, Daft Punk proves they can interpret these influences in wholly original compositions using the analog equipment of their youth. It was a big departure from the heavily electronic sounds of earlier work, and some fans were indeed alienated, but historically speaking, Daft Punk has been anything but predictable or a la mode.
#4 - "Digital Love"
There could not be a better teenage love song ever written. It's the perfect song for every love you've ever been afraid to start. The sample is “I Love You More” by George Duke. The lyrics are written by DJ Sneak and performed by Daft Punk. The bridge was recorded on a Wurlitzer piano, the same that gave Supertramp its signature sound, and the solo was not played on guitars but by mixing the effects of music sequencers. Altogether, it becomes one of the sweetest, most romantic tunes of the last few decades. Collective "awww."
#3 - "Around The World"
Michel Gondry's iconic choreography and cinematography helped launch the clubby tune into -- wait for it -- worldwide popularity. It also marks the beginning of the filmmaker's own obsession with repetition and layered moving parts. You see these themes again in later videos he directs for the Chemical Brothers and Kylie Minogue. In 1997, “Around The World” was a game changer, and in 2017, it still will be. It's quite simple, but it builds beautifully. You could listen to this song and focus on a different sonic element each time and have an endless amount of fun. For an audiophile, there's a lot within to be discovered and enjoyed. Gotta say, though, that bassline takes the cake.
#2 - "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger"
I, like many kids I know, fell in love with this song when it played on a special presentation by Cartoon Network's Toonami. As I get older, it becomes ever-more relevant to my life. That robot voice really knows what's up. This is a downright generational anthem, which is why A-Trak first tried to convince Kanye West not to sample it. It was “too soon,” or so he thought, but he was ultimately proved wrong when West's “Stronger” went on to be a massive hit. It's still the original I favor, though. It's colorful, playful nature brightens any moment, and that killer vocoder-turned-guitar sample is just ultimate cool.
#1 - "One More Time"
This is it, everybody. Daft Punk wrote the greatest party anthem of all time. You can make like “Revolution 909,” stop the music and go home. Nah, just kidding, let's celebrate and dance so free one more time! Seriously, when I die, play this track at my funeral. This brilliant, timeless classic was written in 1998, and Daft Punk sat on it for two years because they are insane geniuses who wanted to be sure it would sound good two years later. Congrats, guys. “One More Time” is gonna sound great in 2098, 3098, whatever. This song rules. What other song has a one-and-a-half slow break that DJs will actually play through in its entirety? None. That is crazy talk, and yet to mix out of Daft Punk's opus without allowing its heightened resolution is sheer blasphemy. When this song came out, people criticized its use of vocoder, but nothing could stop its meteoric rise on the charts. It just goes to show, if someone doesn't get your genius at first, keep going. Eventually, they will.
Homework is the debut studio album by the French electronic music duo Daft Punk, released on 20 January 1997 by Virgin Records and Soma Quality Recordings. The duo produced the tracks without plans to release an album. After working on projects that were intended to be separate singles over five months, they considered the material good enough for an album.
Homework's success brought worldwide attention to French house music. Homework charted in 14 different countries, peaking at number 3 on the French Albums Chart, number 150 on the United States Billboard 200 and at number 8 on the UK Albums Chart. By February 2001, the album had sold more than two million copies worldwide and received several gold and platinum certifications. Overall, Homework received positive critical response. The album features singles that had significant impact in French house and global dance music scenes, including the U.S. BillboardHot Dance/Club Play number-one singles "Da Funk" and "Around the World", the latter of which reached number 61 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Background and recording
In 1993, Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo presented a demo of their electronic music to DJ Stuart Macmillan at a rave at EuroDisney. The contents of the cassette were released on the single "The New Wave" on 11 April 1994, by Soma Quality Recordings, a Scottish techno and house label co-founded in 1991 by MacMillan's band Slam. Daft Punk returned to the studio in May 1995 to record "Da Funk", which was released later that year alongside "Rollin' & Scratchin'" under the Soma label.
The increasing popularity of Daft Punk's singles led to a bidding war among record labels, resulting in the duo's signing to Virgin Records in 1996. Their departure was noted by Richard Brown of Soma, who affirmed that "we were obviously sad to lose them to Virgin but they had the chance to go big, which they wanted, and it's not very often that a band has that chance after two singles. We're happy for them." Virgin re-released "Da Funk" with the B-side "Musique" in 1996, a year before releasing Homework. Bangalter later stated that the B-side "was never intended to be on the album, and in fact, 'Da Funk' as a single has sold more units than Homework, so more people own it anyways [sic] than they would if it had been on the album. It is basically used to make the single a double-feature." The album was mixed and recorded in Daft Punk's studio, Daft House in Paris. It was mastered by Nilesh Patel at the London studio The Exchange.
Bangalter stated that "to be free, we had to be in control. To be in control, we had to finance what we were doing ourselves. The main idea was to be free." Daft Punk discussed their method with Spike Jonze, director of the "Da Funk" music video. He noted that "they were doing everything based on how they wanted to do it. As opposed to, 'oh we got signed to this record company, we gotta use their plan.' They wanted to make sure they never had to do anything that would make them feel bummed on making music." Although Virgin Records holds exclusive distribution rights over Daft Punk's material, the duo still owns their master recordings through their Daft Trax label.
Daft Punk produced the tracks included in Homework without a plan to release an album. Bangalter stated, "It was supposed to be just a load of singles. But we did so many tracks over a period of five months that we realized that we had a good album." The duo set the order of the tracks to cover the four sides of a two-disc vinyl LP. De Homem-Christo remarked, "There was no intended theme because all the tracks were recorded before we arranged the sequence of the album. The idea was to make the songs better by arranging them the way we did; to make it more even as an album." The name Homework, Bangalter explained, relates to "the fact that we made the record at home, very cheaply, very quickly, and spontaneously, trying to do cool stuff."
"Alive", first single released from Homework, is the final version recorded of "The New Wave", which was the first song made by Daft Punk.
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"Daftendirekt" is an excerpt of a live performance recorded in Ghent, Belgium; it served as the introduction to Daft Punk's live shows and was used to begin the album. The performance took place at the first I Love Techno, an event co-produced by Fuse and On the Rox on 10 November 1995.Janet Jackson sampled "Daftendirekt" on her song "So Much Betta", which was included in her tenth studio album, Discipline, in 2008.Homework's following track, "WDPK 83.7 FM", is a tribute to FM radio in the US. The next song, "Revolution 909" is a reflection on the French government's stance on dance music.
"Revolution 909" is followed by "Da Funk", which carries elements of funk and acid music. According to Andrew Asch of the Boca Raton News, the song's composition "relies on a bouncy funk guitar to communicate its message of dumb fun." Bangalter expressed that "Da Funk"'s theme involved the introduction of a simple, unusual element that becomes acceptable and moving over time. Sal Cinquemani of Slant Magazine complimented the song as "unrelenting", and Bob Gajarsky of Westnet called it "a beautiful meeting of Chic (circa "Good Times", sans vocals) and the 90s form of electronica." The song appeared on the soundtrack for the 1997 film The Saint and was placed at number 18 on Pitchfork's "Top 200 Tracks of the 1990s" list. "Phœnix" combines elements of gospel music and house music. The duo considered "Fresh" to be breezy and light with a comical structure. Ian Mathers of Stylus Magazine criticized the song, stating that it "doesn't feel like the beach just because of the lapping waves heard in the background."
The single "Around the World" carries influences of Gershon Kingsley's hit "Popcorn". Its music video was directed by the Academy Award-winning French filmmaker Michel Gondry, who compared the track's bassline to that of "Good Times" by Chic. Chris Power of BBC Music named it "one of the decade's catchiest singles". He stated that it was "a perfect example of Daft Punk's sound at its most accessible: a post-disco boogie bassline, a minimalist sprinkling of synthetic keyboard melody and a single, naggingly insistent hook." Ian Mathers of Stylus Magazine commented that "there is no way you'd want to have a Homework without 'Around The World'." The track "Teachers" is a tribute to several of Daft Punk's house music influences, including future collaborators Romanthony, DJ Sneak and Todd Edwards. The song "Oh Yeah" features DJ Deelat and DJ Crabbe. "Indo Silver Club" features a sample of "Hot Shot" by Karen Young. Prior to its inclusion on Homework, "Indo Silver Club" was released as a single on the Soma Quality Recordings label in two parts. The single lacked an artist credit in the packaging and was thought to have been created by the nonexistent producers Indo Silver Club. The final track, "Funk Ad", is a reversed clip of "Da Funk".
Homework features singles that had significant impact in the French house and global dance music scenes. The first single from the album, "Alive", was included as a B-side on the single "The New Wave", which was released in April 1994. The album's second single was "Da Funk"; it was initially released in 1995 by Soma and was re-released by Virgin Records in 1996. It became the duo's first number-one single on the BillboardHot Dance/Club Play chart. The song reached number seven on British and French charts. The third single, "Around the World", was a critical and commercial success, becoming the second number-one single on the Billboard Hot Dance/Club Play chart, as well as reaching number 11 in Australia, number five in the United Kingdom and number 61 on the Billboard Hot 100. In October 2011, NME placed "Around the World" at number 21 on its list of "150 Best Tracks of the Past 15 Years". The album's fourth single was "Burnin'"; it was released in September 1997 and peaked at number 30 in the UK. The final single from Homework was "Revolution 909". It was released in February 1998 and reached number 47 in the UK and number 12 on the Billboard Hot Dance/Club Play chart.
In 1999, the duo released a video collection featuring music videos of tracks and singles from the album under the name of D.A.F.T.: A Story About Dogs, Androids, Firemen and Tomatoes. Although its title derives from the appearances of dogs ("Da Funk" and "Fresh"), androids ("Around the World"), firemen ("Burnin'"), and tomatoes ("Revolution 909") in the videos, a cohesive plot does not connect its episodes.
Homework's success brought worldwide attention to French progressive house music, and drew attention to French house music. According to The Village Voice, the album revived house music and departed from the Euro dance formula. In the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, critic Alex Rayner stated that Homework tied the established club styles to the "burgeoning eclecticism" of big beat. He contended that it served as a proof that "there was more to dance music than pills and keyboard presets."Clash described Homework as an entry point of accessibility for a "burgeoning movement on the cusp of splitting the mainstream seam." In 2009, Brian Linder of IGN described Homework as the duo's third-best album. He catalogued as a "groundbreaking achievement" the way they used their unique skills to craft the house, techno, acid and punk music styles into the record. Hua Hsu of eMusic agreed, applauding Homework for how it captured a "feeling of discovery and exploration" as a result of "years of careful study of the finest house, techno, electro and hip-hop records." David Browne, writing in Entertainment Weekly, stated that the duo knew how to use "their playful, hip-hopping ambient techno" to craft the album. He named Homework the "ideal disco for androids". Sean Cooper of AllMusic called the album "an almost certain classic" and "essential".
Chris Power of BBC Music compared Homework's "less-is-more" approach to compression's use as "a sonic tribute" to the FMradio stations that "fed Daft Punk's youthful obsessions." Sal Cinquemani of Slant Magazine wrote that "while a few tracks are more daft than deft," more recent groundbreakers like The Avalanches could never exist without "Da Funk". Ian Mathers of Stylus Magazine noted that "there's a core of unimpeachably classic work on Homework, hidden among the merely good, and when you've got such a classic debut hidden in the outlines of the epic slouch of their debut, it's hard not to get frustrated."Rolling Stone awarded the album three stars out of five, commenting that "the duo's essential, career-defining insight is that the problem with disco the first time around was not that it was stupid but that it was not stupid enough."Rolling Stone ranked Homework at the top on their list of "The 30 Greatest EDM Albums of All Time" while affirming that Daft Punk's debut "is pure synapse-tweaking brilliance." According to Scott Woods of The Village Voice, "Daft Punk [tore] the lid off the [creative] sewer" with the release of Homework. Ryan Schreiber of Pitchfork awarded it 7.6 out of 10. He stated that "Homework provides sixteen whole tracks of modern-day boom box bass n' drum and unlike your science project, it doesn't require a lot of intricate calculations to figure out how it works." In his view, "It sounds like an Atari 2600 on a killing spree." By contrast, Robert Christgau of The Village Voice cited "Da Funk" as a "choice cut", indicating "a good song on an album that isn't worth your time or money". Darren Gawle from Drop-D Magazine also gave a negative review, stating that "Homework is the work of a couple of DJs who sound amateurish at best."
Daft Punk wanted the majority of pressings to be on vinyl, so only 50,000 albums were initially printed in Vinyl format. After its release, overwhelming sales of Homework caused distributors to accelerate production to satisfy demand. The album was distributed in 35 countries worldwide, peaking at number 150 on the Billboard 200.Homework first charted on the Australian Albums Chart on 27 April 1997; it remained there for eight weeks and peaked at number 37. In France, the album reached number three and stayed on the chart for 82 weeks. In 1999, it reached Gold status in France for selling more than 100,000 copies. On 11 July 2001, the album was certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America, indicating sales of 500,000 copies in the US. By October 1997, the album had sold 220,000 copies worldwide, although Billboard reported that, according to Virgin Records, two million copies had been sold by February 2001. By September 2007, 605,000 copies had been sold in the United States.
All music composed by Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo.
|2.||"WDPK 83.7 FM"||0:28|
|7.||"Around the World"||7:04|
|8.||"Rollin' & Scratchin'"||7:26|
|14.||"Indo Silver Club"||4:32|
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- ^"Daft Punk: Homework". Q (127): 120. April 1997.
- ^ abWolk, Douglas (2004). "Daft Punk". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian. The New Rolling Stone Album Guide. Simon & Schuster. p. 207. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8.
- —Thomas Bangalter, in regards to the duo's creative control and freedom