On Daft Punk’s Discovery, “One More Time,” and Soundtracked Memory

On February 22nd, 2021, the news of the breakup of Daft Punk — arguably the biggest, most influential electronic duo ever — pinged text messages and group chats around the world (sorry). This is what kicked-off my 28th birthday, coincidentally the same age of the electronic project itself. Even more fitting, the group’s landmark album Discovery turns 20 years old today.

It’s fitting that the aforementioned breakup and anniversary come the week of my annual reflection of my lived existence thus far. I find comfort in time, or rather, dates, anniversaries, milestones that make interesting coincidences with events of my life and others’ lives. This gives me an unexplainable comfort, even though I couldn’t possibly have been aware at the time things happen (case in point: I turned 8 around the time Discovery was released — I remember only caring for my Digimon figurines at the time…). Even so, these events accessed memories (sorry again) that I hold so dear.

Discovery’s opener, “One More Time,” is the essential Daft Punk track. It is undeniably agreeable across all music tastes, ages, and experiences. I was 8 when I first heard it, and my older brothers raved about this group that had this catchy song. Being incredibly impressionable and following whatever they liked, I really enjoyed it whenever it came on the radio. But one early morning, I turned on Nickelodeon, looking for some cartoons, when the music video for “One More Time” played during the commercial break.

I was HOOKED. The colors, sounds, and imagery from the music video — from their album-soundtracked anime Interstella 5555 — was the sugary, early-morning breakfast I needed to forever be entranced by anything they did.

Discovery would score much of my adolescence, from the special to the mundane: playing “One More Time” through a friend’s backpack speakers as we rode (an empty) Splash Mountain 5(6?) times in a row at Disneyland; belting the bridge from “Digital Love” in my friend’s green pickup truck on the way to track practice (“WHY DON’T YOU PLAY THE GAAAME?”); waking up to my alarm, the blistering introduction to “Crescendolls,” much of senior year of high school, played through the chintzy speaker of a BlackBerry Curve.

My favorite humanoid robots continued to soundtrack my early adulthood (annual Facebook status: “DAFT PUNK COACHELLA NEXT YEAR, FOR SURE.”). But with the changing of life seasons, so many changes came that I didn’t (or couldn’t) prepare for: anxiety, insecurity, and wandering passionless life limbo (college) in the midst of stark change. But during hometown visit by my brothers, we went for a car ride, bumped Alive 2007, and enjoyed each other’s company. As we curved through the familiar freeway interchange we used on our commute to school years ago, the dread lifted. In its place, a complex comfort, simultaneously familiar and new, that remains tangled and inadequately expressed by words. But at its simplest form, I was listening to music I love, with people I love. This moment of fleeting clarity, soundtracked by the aura of “Television Rules the Nation/Crescendolls,” serves as a reminder of the depth of my humanity and experience.

While I lament they didn’t give the life-affirming world tour we all wanted, it hardly matters: Daft Punk seemed to transcend time and space. They are simultaneously infinite, and yet just a couple of robots from France whose existence remind me that I am human after all (not sorry).