published: 25 /
Ben Howarth in 'Condemned to Rock 'n' Roll' questions Daft Punk's strategically marketed new single 'Get Lucky', which is been hyped as one of the musical releases of the year
'Tis the year of the carefully co-ordinated 'music event'. Bowie popped up one morning with his first brand new song in ten years, and then My Bloody Valentine, even more ambitiously, gave us an entire album unannounced one random Sunday morning. Boards of Canada posted their album online, but only for a day. It came as a blessed relief when Kasabian's guitarist accidentally told everyone that the Stones were due to play Glastonbury a few days before the press embargo was lifted.
I wrote a few months back that the novelty of its 'event' release was the spark that made me listen more carefully to the new Bowie album, but sometimes the opposite is true. Take Daft Punk, for example. So much effort went into creating a 'buzz' over their new single 'Get Lucky' – tiny snippets of the track posted online – that I found myself desperate never to have to listen to it.
But, whoever was behind the marketing campaign earned their money – everywhere I looked people were talking about this song. On Facebook,several friends were giving the impression that their entire lives were revolving around listening to this song. Twitter was even busier – comedians and political columnists, all falling over themselves to say they'd been playing 'Get Lucky'.
Who could resist? “Nile Rodgers! Pharrell Williams! A tune! A chorus! You have to hear it...” I found it on YouTube, pressed play and... well, it's okay I suppose. Catchy in places, and those guitars do sound like Chic (whatever Nile Rodgers has been up to these past thirty years, I don't think Daft Punk hired him to do anything other than recreate the glory days). But, it's hard to see what all the fuss is about, and even harder to see when I'd ever want to listen to it again.
The search for the 'Next Great Pop Single (TM)' seems to have left the professional critic classes rather desperate. Compared to a genuine classic pop single, 'Get Lucky' sounds tame and lifeless. Play it back-to-back with Chic's ‘Le Freak’, and there is only one you'll want to hear again. Nile Rodgers does basically the same thing on both tracks – but what ‘Get Lucky’ lacks is the thrilling human bassline (replaced by something mechanical and over-studied, presumably a sample), the propulsive rhythm (ditto) and the sense of unabashed joy that comes from 'Le Freak' (replaced by the impression of old men, many years into their career, nodding along at their own cleverness).
You might say that the greatest problem for 'Get Lucky' is that it is too critic-proof. Truly great pop singles don't come with marketing campaigns, social media hype and critical acclaim. They simply announce themselves, and for the next few weeks you want to listen to nothing else. Unfortunately, we now have a template for what makes a great pop single, and that means no-one makes them anymore. Our brains know exactly what they are listening for and pop's most thrilling sensation – surprise – disappears.
Is 'Get Lucky' really is as good as 'Good Vibrations', 'Hounds of Love', 'Come On Eileen' or 'Hey Ya'? To these ears, 'Get Lucky' sounds like the record a band would make after a brainstorming session in front of a whiteboard, each member picking one thing that makes a 'perfect pop song', then putting them all together (I mean – what on earth is that vocoder section from 2.21 supposed to add?)
Or perhaps I am just getting old. It's not that I hate 'Get Lucky', I'm merely indifferent. In fact, I am confused – how can a song be a classic to almost everyone else, and a total bore to me. Has everyone gone mad? Has my taste simply deserted me? I've been listening to 'Get Lucky' on repeat – much like all those people on Twitter – while writing this article, and still, I find myself thinking “it's OK, I suppose”.
Daft Punk, then, remain in my list of much-hyped dance acts that I simply don't like very much – filed right in between Basement Jaxx and Leftfield. I have one thing to be thankful for, though – in days gone by, the five star reviews would have prompted me to waste thirteen pounds, maybe more, on the CD. That CD, attempts to “get into” it would have clogged up my shelves gathering dust for years before I finally saw sense and sent it to the charity shop. Now the MP3 file can vanish to my recycle bin, with just one click.