Photo: Marco Piraccini/Archivio Marco Piraccini/Mondadori via Getty Images
Daft Punk Essentials: 10 Songs That Showcase The Duo's Futuristic Innovation
The French electronic music duo's massive influence in the '90s and early 2000s transformed the dance landscape and continues to resonate. On the 10th anniversary of their smash hit "Get Lucky," revisit some of their biggest hits.
Dance music wouldn't be the same without Daft Punk. In 1993, Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo joined forces, not knowing they would become trailblazers of the decade's French house movement.
The duo took their name from a negative review of their former band Darlin', in which their music was criticized as "a daft punky thrash" — and so Daft Punk was born, living up to their name by merging creative absurdity with liveliness. The duo made few public media appearances, quite literally shrouding themselves in mystery through a sci-fi aesthetic accompanying their prolific, contemporary sound.
From their 1997 debut studio album Homework to collaborations with The Weeknd decades later, the duo built their extensive discography on a fearless restyling of electronica. Contributing to dance music popularization in North America with their 2006-2007 tour, Daft Punk is credited with ushering EDM into the mainstream.
Although the duo disbanded in 2021, their influence is everlasting: colorfully blending house with every genre from techno to synth-pop, Daft Punk has proved their creativity knows no limits.
In honor of the 10-year anniversary of the GRAMMY-winning duo's "Get Lucky" and their 30-year career span, take a listen to these 9 funky essentials by Daft Punk.
"Da Funk," Homework (1997)
Tripping into acid house, Daft Punk's single "Da Funk" is a glaring highlight from the duo's debut, Homework. Featuring a squirming, snappy 303 bass line and refreshing disco-inspired sound, the lyricless track is a '90s house classic.
"Around The World," Homework (1997)
Daft Punk's dynamic sounds are staples in clubs all over the world, and part of this is due to the smash success of their single "Around The World." The second single from their debut hit No. 1 on dance charts worldwide, its only lyric — fittingly, "around the world" — repeated 144 times to reach full earworm potential.
"One More Time," Discovery (2000)
Daft Punk regards "One More Time" as the bridge between Homework and Discovery, and this song speaks to the duo's timeless, overarching creativity. Spotlighting their signature auto-tuned vocals and futuristic production, the song is a full-blown celebration. Upon release, the track tied with "Around The World" by hitting No. 61 on the Billboard Hot 100.
"Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger," Discovery (2001)
An instant influential hit, "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" combines the keyboard riff from Edwin Birdsong's 1979 funk song "Cola Bottle Baby" with heavily vocoded vocals. The song has been remixed, sampled, and covered dozens of times, and a live version of the track — from Daft Punk's live album, Alive 2007 — took home a GRAMMY for Best Dance/Electronic Recording in 2009.
"Digital Love," Discovery (2001)
Led elegantly by a Wurlitzer and filled with prolonged harmonies, this Daft Punk essential sloshes through a dreamy electropop soundscape. Longing pulses through the textured, technological track, and its softness cushions the song's outlined fantasy in a graceful way.
"Robot Rock," Human After All (2005)
Wonderfully mechanical, Daft Punk's "Robot Rock" is a staple of electronic rock. Its central and only lyric — "Rock, robot rock" — repeats over and over, meshing with a looping synth-led riff and electric guitar power chords. Filmed on VHS, its music video glitters as the first video to star Daft Punk exclusively.
"Starboy" - The Weeknd, Starboy (2016)
The title track from The Weeknd's third studio album, "Starboy," strays from Daft Punk's signature electronic sound, determinedly wandering into edgy pop and R&B. Surprisingly, the collaboration is Daft Punk's first and only No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
"Get Lucky" featuring Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers, Random Access Memories (2013)
Pulling in a couple of legends for collaboration, "Get Lucky" strikes a perfect groove as a disco-pop banger about staying up 'til the sun. Starring Nile Rodgers' radiant guitar riff and Pharrell Williams' funky vocals, the experimental song won Record Of The Year and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance at the 56th GRAMMY Awards.
"Derezzed," TRON: Legacy (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) (2010)
Who better than Daft Punk to craft the soundtrack for a sci-fi film? The pair's robotic aesthetic and futuristic music perfectly complement the 2010 Disney cyberworld film Tron: Legacy, and "Derezzed" stands out as an especially immersive track. At the 54th GRAMMY Awards, TRON: Legacy (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) was nominated for Best Score Soundtrack Album For Visual Media.
"Lose Yourself to Dance" featuring Pharrell Williams, Random Access Memories (2013)
Pharrell Williams returned to work with Daft Punk for the groovy "Lose Yourself to Dance" in 2013. His vocals float through the song's funky production, and partway through, a multi-layered clap imbues the track with new, crowd-sourced energy.
Photo: Michael Tran/FilmMagic
GRAMMY Rewind: Daft Punk Shares "Love" For Macklemore After 'Random Access Memories' Wins Album Of The Year In 2014
Notorious for their silent (and masked) appearances, French EDM duo Daft Punk had 'Random Access Memories' collaborator Paul Williams deliver their heartwarming message at the 56th GRAMMY Awards — which included a shout-out to Macklemore.
This year, Daft Punk is celebrating their 20th anniversary. Their groundbreaking album Random Access Memories also celebrates a milestone anniversary in 2023, turning 10 on May 17.
In this episode of GRAMMY Rewind, we turn back the clock to 2014, when Daft Punk won the prestigious Album of the Year award for Random Access Memories. Notorious for their silent, faceless appearances, musical legend Paul Williams accepted the duo's award while they stood back.
"Back when I was drinking and using, I used to imagine things that weren't there that were frightening. Then, I got sober, and two robots called me and asked me to make an album," Williams joked at the beginning of the speech.
"I just got a message from the robots, and what they wanted me to say is that as elegant and as classy as the GRAMMY has ever been is the moment when we saw those wonderful marriages," Williams said, referring to Macklemore's revolutionary performance of "Same Love" at the same ceremony. "'Same Love' is fantastic, and it was the height of fairness and the power of love for all people at any time, in any combination."
Williams went on to praise Daft Punk's generous spirit, their fellow collaborators, and the love that went into making the album.
Press play on the video above to watch Paul Williams' full acceptance speech for Daft Punk's Random Access Memories, and check back to GRAMMY.com for more new episodes of GRAMMY Rewind.
Photo courtesy of SOURCE MUSIC
Meet LE SSERAFIM, The K-Pop Group Nile Rodgers Chose For His First Foray Into The Genre
In an exclusive joint interview, LE SSERAFIM and legendary musician Nile Rodgers — who is featured on their debut record, 'Unforgiven' — discuss the importance of being unconventional, and why K-pop is so exciting to Western audiences.
What Nile Rodgers loves the most about K-pop is that it is fearless. The revered producer, guitarist, and four-time GRAMMY winner (as well as Lifetime Achievement Award recipient) spares no words on how invigorating the South Korean industry is. "For a musician like myself, it’s exciting to have that kind of challenge," he says over a Zoom from his studio, whose walls are covered in gold, platinum and diamond albums.
Rodgers’ work has soundtracked our lives more than we know. In 1977, he co-founded the disco vanguard band Chic, which then spawned samples for the Sugarhill Gang's "Rapper's Delight," Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust," and Daft Punk’s "Around the World." He collaborated with Diana Ross, David Bowie, Beyoncé and many others, and produced era-defining albums such as Madonna’s Like a Virgin and Duran Duran’s Notorious.
Now, he’s ready to make his debut into the K-pop realm alongside girl group LE SSERAFIM. Rodgers is featured on "Unforgiven," the title track from LE SSERAFIM's debut studio album. The track also samples Ennio Morricone’s theme song from the 1966 spaghetti Western film The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, and the music video, recorded in Thailand, sees them boldly take the town in cowgirl outfits — a celebration of all the "unforgiven girls" and "unforgiven boys" in the lyrics.
Rodgers couldn’t have chosen a better act for his first K-pop feature. LE SSERAFIM takes their name out of an anagram for "I’m fearless." In May 2022, the quintet became the first girl group launched by Source Music under HYBE — the same label of K-pop icons BTS and SEVENTEEN — with the fittingly-titled EP Fearless. Aiming to spread self-confident messages, LE SSERAFIM established themselves as unflinching, dare-devilish stars.
Throughout Unforgiven’s 13 tracks, LE SSERAFIM are boldly themselves, regardless of what others think. Whether they are the unforgiven villains of the title track, "a mess in distress" in "Eve, Psyche & The Bluebeard’s wife," or demonstrate vulnerably on "FEARNOT (Between you, me and the lamppost)," LE SSERAFIM live by their truth. And what’s more fearless than that?
GRAMMY.com caught up with Nile Rodgers and LE SSERAFIM's Sakura, Kim Chaewon, Huh Yunjin, Kazuha, and Hong Eunchae for an exclusive conversation about Western and Eastern collaborations, what makes K-pop so exciting, and what they learned from each other.
Nile, you have collaborated with many legendary artists throughout the decades. What made you choose LE SSERAFIM to be your first K-pop collaboration?
Nile Rodgers: Why? Because when I heard the song, I loved it.
LE SSERAFIM [in unison]: Thank you!
LE SSERAFIM, did you know about Nile’s work before? What was your reaction when you learned that he was featuring on "Unforgiven?"
Yunjin: Well, I grew up in the States, so of course I knew. We were all so shocked to know that such a legend would work with us. It hasn't even been a year since we debuted, we were so honored and so excited.
Sakura: It was a really, really huge honor, and I still cannot believe that it happened. When Nile first played the guitar for us, I was completely blown away. I was like, "Is this going to be in our song?" I couldn't believe it. I was really proud.
Yunjin: I remember when I first told my parents, they were like, "No way! You? You and Nile Rodgers?" [Laughs.]
Nile, what are your impressions about K-pop in general? How do you see its growth in America and across the world?
Rodgers: This may sound nerdy, but I love the fact that it seems like a lot of the K-pop that I'm hearing lately, the new music, [has] the harmonic changes. The chord changes are a lot more interesting than what's been happening [in other music fields] over the last few years.
And that's made me excited, because I come from a jazz background, so to hear chord changes like that is really cool. They’re not afraid, which is great to me.
LE SSERAFIM, as a K-pop group, why do you think that it's important to collaborate with Western artists like Nile Rodgers? Is making your music more global something that you strive for to reach more people?
Yunjin: As time goes by, on the contrary, I think it's harder to find boundaries. Music is a universal language, and I think it's very good and very honorable to have Western and Eastern artists collaborating from wherever they are. It's just so that more people can enjoy good music. Isn't that the only reason? Like, music is good, and so more people should listen to it.
Rodgers: And I agree.
How has this collaboration inspired you further? Is there anything you learned from working together that you want to apply to your future work?
Rodgers: I was thinking I should have worn a cowboy hat today. [Laughs.]
Kazuha: When we first met online, Nile played [the guitar] according to our song, and it was completely freestyle. It wasn't something like "Oh, I'm gonna sit down and play music," it was just completely freestyle. I thought it was really cool and fascinating for a new work of art to be formed just by going with the flow and feeling the vibe. I thought it would be nice to [have] that process for us too, as true artists and for [creating] similar works of art as well.
Since Nile mentioned the cowboy hat, "Unforgiven" samples The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly soundtrack, which is a surprising novelty. What do you think about the fact that you are actually merging the past with the present, and bridging decades of culture in one song?
Sakura: I just learned that there are no set rules in music, we just do it.
Rodgers: I once attended a concert with maestro Ennio Morricone, who wrote the music for The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. He had me sit right behind him while he conducted. It was fantastic.
Yunjin: Wow, so it must have been very weird to hear that in a K-pop song?
Rodgers: It's cool. See, that's the thing I like. K-pop music is stretching the boundaries. I was talking to my engineer today, and we were listening to, not just the rest of [LE SSERAFIM’s] album, but other people who are sending me music or would like me to play with them. And I was noticing that, as I said earlier, harmonically, it's a lot more interesting than what's been happening in the last maybe 10 years, where it's been almost the same four chords over and over and over again, just different melodies.
Nile, you've heard the rest of Unforgiven. LE SSERAFIM’s album. What was the main takeaway that you got from it?
Rodgers: I actually think that it's really cool. I think it's progressive. It's fun. It's exciting. I hope that what I feel is what the rest of the world feels — I loved it. There’s a lot of good writers and producers. It's really great.
LE SSERAFIM [in unison]: Aw, thank you so much!
The title Unforgiven is based on the idea that you don’t need excuses to be who you are. Is there anything specific that you learned about yourselves while working with this concept?
Yunjin: Through every album, we grow with it and then we are able to personify [it]. I think the main message that we want to convey has actually become our story. No matter what people say — even if they might judge us, or misperceive us, or point fingers at us — regardless of what people think, we might become the villain in other people's eyes. But just like how our music is crossing lines and stretching out the boundaries, we want to become a team that can continue doing that.
Rodgers: I think what you're saying is exactly right. If you have a message and a concept, never worry about some people not liking it, because there's no way that everybody can like everything.
I mean, even the five of you probably don't like all the exact same food at the exact same moment, but it's okay. Sometimes people don't understand it right away and they get it later on, and that's cool too. Art is personal.
Were there any challenges working together, or any obstacles that you had to overcome while recording?
Rodgers: Well, I was In America, unfortunately, and they were in Korea. You can see that we can work like this, we can work remotely, but it would probably be fun to be in the same room.
Chaewon: Sure, sure, hopefully.
LE SSERAFIM was the first girl group launched by Source Music under HYBE, and now you're part of such a strong new generation of girl groups who also debuted in the past few years. What are some of your thoughts about being part of this new wave?
Eunchae: I think it is really nice to be active in a time where so many great girl groups are getting a lot of attention. A lot of people are listening to their music, and while we are also promoting with other groups, we're getting a lot of motivation and positive influences. I'm really satisfied and happy with that.
There’s plenty of musical styles that you approach on Unforgiven — Latin rhythms, Jersey Club beats, and even some country rock. What are some of your favorite experimentations or favorite moments to work on in the album?
Yunjin: I think the fact that Nile is in our album is just… You just can't not have "Unforgiven" as a favorite. I think all of us have "Unforgiven" as our top two. It's my personal favorite title track that we have ever done.
Sakura, Kazuha and Eunchae: Yes, "Unforgiven"!
Rodgers: I didn't pay them to say that. [Laughs.]
Nile, do you have any other favorites in the album, besides "Unforgiven"?
Rodgers: I actually liked the whole album. That's why, when we first started talking, I really was impressed with the fact that it's not conventional. It's not exactly what you would think. As a musician, it's great to listen to, to have different styles of music, and all of the styles that they pursue sound sincere.
If you could collaborate together again, what kind of music would you want to make?
Chaewon: Wow, that’s hard. I think if we can collaborate together again, anything would be fine.
Yunjin: We will try our best at everything.
Rodgers: I have a feeling in my heart that we will collaborate again.
[LE SSERAFIM cheer and send heart hands and thumbs ups to Nile.]
Photo: Rich Fury/Getty Images for The Recording Academy
9 Essential Jack Harlow Collaborations: Drake, Lil Wayne, Saweetie, Lil Nas X & More
As Jack Harlow releases his third album, 'Jackman,' revisit some of the most epic — and star-studded — collabs he's delivered in the past several years, from Eminem to Justin Timberlake.
Long before Jack Harlow was one of rap's buzziest stars, he was making music for his middle-school classmates. Even at just age 12, he knew the art of collaboration, teaming up with a friend to create his first album, and later creating a rap collective with other pals. Fast forward 13 years later, and he's teaming up with some of the biggest stars in the industry.
Harlow has counted several superstars as collaborators since signing with Atlantic Records in 2018; just the track list of his second album, 2022's Come Home the Kids Miss You, featured the likes of Drake, Lil Wayne, Justin Timberlake, and Pharrell Williams. So when Harlow surprised fans with the announcement of his third studio album, Jackman, just days before its April 28 release, it was easy to assume he'd deliver more star-studded tracks.
But upon the album's arrival, there was not a collaboration to be found. Based on Harlow opting to use his birth name as the title of his latest release, it's not all that surprising that he opted to take the no-features route this time around — and even without collaborators, he sounds more confident than ever.
Although Jackman didn't add to Harlow's reputable lineup of guest stars, he has quite the roster already, whether from his own projects or featuring on another artist's track. To celebrate Harlow's new music, GRAMMY.com revisits some of his most memorable collaborations so far.
DaBaby, Tory Lanez, and Lil Wayne — "Whats Poppin" (Remix)
Harlow released six mixtapes and two EPs in the many years leading up to his breakthrough hit "Whats Poppin," the lead single off his debut studio album, 2020's Thats What They All Say. Though "Whats Poppin" certainly isn't the only of Harlow's raps to reflect on the joys of being rich and famous, his hard-hitting delivery on the new remix verse is a standout among the rest.
And with the help of DaBaby and Tory Lanez on the remix as well, the song reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 — an impressive feat for his first-ever entry on the chart. Not only did the song's commercial success put him on the map, but it nabbed Harlow his first GRAMMY nomination in 2021, for Best Rap Performance.
Drake — "Churchill Downs"
Named after Louisville's iconic racetrack, "Churchill Downs" is a heartfelt ode to Harlow's hometown; the music video was even filmed at the 2022 Kentucky Derby. Backed by a flute-driven beat, the standout track off Harlow's sophomore album, Come Home the Kids Miss You, is a perfect embodiment of his humble beginnings: "All that time in the kitchen finally panned out/ I put some flavor in a pot and took the bland out/ I know my grandpa would have a heart attack if I pulled a hunnid grand out," he raps.
Meanwhile, Drake's guest verse — which calls out the pitfalls of fame — is considered one of his best in recent years, likely due to the level of vulnerability the Canadian rapper is showing nearly two decades into his career.
The rags-to-riches tale resonated with fans and critics alike: "Churchill Downs" cracked the top 10 of Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, and earned the pair a GRAMMY nomination for Best Rap Song in 2022.
Lil Nas X — "Industry Baby"
Lil Nas X recruited Harlow for his multi-platinum single "Industry Baby," a pulsing track laden with triumphant horns and braggadocious lyrics. Accompanied by a provocative music video where both rappers break out of prison while donning bright pink jumpsuits, the song strategically followed Lil Nas X's legal battle with Nike. But the Kentucky rapper's verse arguably steals the show with brow-raising bars, including "I sent her back to her boyfriend with my handprint on her a— cheek."
The boisterous tune helped Harlow earn his first of two No. 1s on the Hot 100; his second came in 2022 with his solo track "First Class."
Saweetie — "Tap In" (Remix)
While the SoCal rapper isn't shy about flaunting her physical attributes ("Lil' waist, fat a—") and being able to "bag a eight-figure n—," Harlow just seems happy to be there. "I just crossed over to Top 40/ I can't even say 'Whats poppin?' now 'cause it got corny," he spits before telling listeners that his verse for Saweetie got him "horny."
Big Sean — "Way Out"
A solid single choice following "Whats Poppin" and "Tyler Herro," Harlow and Big Sean's "Way Out" is as straightforward and braggadocious as it is club-ready. Just under three minutes in length, Sean's guest verse does not disappoint — it's packed with punchlines, such as "I'm anointed, I'm the boss/ I done came out of pocket so much/ You thought that I was disjointed."
Lil Wayne — "Poison"
Lil Wayne was no stranger to AutoTune before teaming up with Harlow, but some critics disapproved of his use of it on "Poison," a track from Come Home the Kids Miss You. Even so, his rhyme about stealing someone's girl is pretty iconic: "I might have to jack your b— 'cause I be on my Harlow sh—."
Despite what critics have to say, clearly Wayne enjoys working with Harlow — "Poison" marked their third collab, following the "Whats Poppin" remix and 2020 single "P— Talk" alongside City Girls and Quavo.
Pharrell Williams — "Movie Star"
On "Movie Star," Harlow ditches his humble persona to rap about enjoying the perks of his then-newfound superstardom: money, women, and designer clothes. "Can't imagine being you, ooh, I'd hate to be it / I'm done fakin' humble, actin' like I ain't conceited / 'Cause, b—, I am conceited," he declares on the track produced by the legendary Pharrell Williams, a true indicator that an artist has made it in the music industry.
After Williams adds some of his flair to the chorus, both stars trade off rhymes in the song's final verse. "But do it jiggle though?" Williams asks. Harlow's response? "I feel like the whole damn city know."
Justin Timberlake — "Parent Trap"
The dark side of fame theme resurfaces in "Parent Trap," a collaboration with Justin Timberlake, who lends his signature southern drawl to the chorus. "Every sky can't be blue/ It's hard to see when you're walkin' in the grey/ So many flights, look at how the time flew," he sings.
Though it may not quite measure up to Harlow's top-tier duet with Drake on "Churchill Downs," which tackles similar subject matter, the collab is a fitting one — Harlow referenced NSYNC in "Tyler Herro" just two years prior.
Eminem and Cordae — "Killer" (Remix)
In late 2020, Harlow told GQ that he "grew up listening to Eminem" and idolized him, so it must have been surreal and full-circle when he got to join forces with the 15-time GRAMMY-winning rapper a mere six months later.
Rising to the challenge, Harlow holds his own alongside Em and then-fellow newcomer Cordae, demonstrating strong lyrical wordplay — particularly with lines like "I'm eatin' pizza in Little Italy, damn, I used to hit Caesars."
Even alongside his biggest heroes, Harlow has proven his natural ability to command attention — and though it's just him on the mic on Jackman, he seems poised and ready to see who's next.
Photo: Rebecca Sapp
5 Things We Learned From GRAMMY Museum's New The Power Of Song Exhibit, A Celebration Of Songwriters From Tom Petty To Taylor Swift
Nile Rodgers, Jimmy Jam, Smokey Robinson and more provide deep insights into their hit collaborations and creative process at GRAMMY Museum's The Power of Song: A Songwriters Hall of Fame Exhibit, open from April 26 through Sept. 4.
Since its founding in 1969, the Songwriters Hall of Fame has been celebrating the great songwriters and composers of our time. In 2010, it found a physical home at Downtown Los Angeles' GRAMMY Museum.
Now, the GRAMMY Museum is adding to that legacy with a special expanded exhibit, which dives deep into the history of songwriting and recorded music in the United States — as well as the Songwriters Hall of Fame and its inductees' role in it. Whether you're a songwriter or musician who loves the creative process, a history nerd, or simply a music lover, this exhibit is for you.
When you enter The Power Of Song, you'll hear the voices of legendary Songwriter Hall of Fame inductees and GRAMMY winners — including Nile Rodgers, Carole King, Diane Warren, Smokey Robinson and Jimmy Jam — discussing their creative process and some of the biggest songs they've written. Take a seat on the couch to absorb all their wisdom in the deeply informative and inspiring original short film.
Turn to the right, and you'll find a timeline across the entire wall, explaining the origins and key points around songwriting and recorded music in the U.S. On the other wall, pop on the headphones provided to enjoy a video of memorable Hall of Fame ceremony performances. One interactive video interface near the entrance allows you to hear "song highlights," and another allows you to explore the entire Songwriters Hall of Fame database.
The exhibit is filled with a treasure trove of handwritten song lyrics from Taylor Swift, Cyndi Lauper, Tom Petty and many more, as well as iconic artifacts, including Daft Punk's helmets, a classy Nile Rodgers GRAMMY look, and guitars from Bill Withers, Tom Petty, John Mellencamp and Toby Keith.
Below, take a look at five things we learned from The Power Of Song: A Songwriters Hall Of Fame Exhibit, which will be at the GRAMMY Museum from April 26 through Sept. 4.
Daft Punk Rerecorded "Get Lucky" To Fit Nile Rodgers' Funky Guitar
Legendary funk pioneer and superproducer Nile Rodgers is the current Chairman of the SHOF and has an active presence at the exhibit. One case features the disco-esque lime green Dior tuxedo Rodgers wore to the 2023 GRAMMY Awards, along with the shiny metallic helmets of French dance duo Daft Punk, who collaborated with Rodgers on their GRAMMY-winning 2013 album, Random Access Memories.
Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo of Daft Punk and Rodgers had forged a friendship and been wanting to collab for years prior to 2013's Record Of The Year-winning smash "Get Lucky." When they finally connected and Bangalter and de Homem-Christo played the CHIC founder the demo for "Get Lucky," he asked to hear it again with everything muted except the drum track, so he could create the perfect guitar lick for it.
Bangalter and de Homem-Christo decided to essentially re-record the whole song to fit Rodgers' guitar, which joyously drives the track — and carried it to No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, Daft Punk's first Top 5 hit.
Photo: Rebecca Sapp
Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis Set Up Their Studio The "Wrong" Way Because Of Prince
In the exhibit film, Jimmy Jam tells several stories about working with — and learning from — Prince. He recalls how he and Terry Lewis watched Prince work and record everything "in the red," so they set up their Minneapolis studio to follow his lead. A sound engineer told them it was too loud, but that ended up being the sound that artists like Janet Jackson and Usher came to them for. It was a "happy mistake," as Jam put it, that helped their legendary careers as a powerhouse production duo take off.
Prince's dogmatic, tireless work ethic also rubbed off on the powerhouse pair. One rehearsal, the Purple One kept pressing Jam to do more, which resulted in him playing two instruments, singing and hitting the choreography from behind his keyboard. "He saw that I could do more than I thought I could; he saw me better than I saw myself," he reflected.
"God Bless America" Composer Irving Berlin Didn't Read Music
In his 50 year-career, Irving Berlin wrote over 1000 songs, many of which defined American popular music for the better part of the 20th century. Along with penning "God Bless America," "White Christmas," "Puttin' on the Ritz," and "There's No Business Like Show Business" (among many other classics), he wrote 17 full Broadway musical scores and contributed songs to six more plays.
Berlin also wrote scores for early Hollywood musicals starring the likes of Ginger Rodgers, Fred Astaire, Marilyn Monroe, and Bing Crosby. He made a lasting, indelible mark on music, theater, film and American culture writ large.
Rather astonishingly, the widely celebrated American Tin Pan Alley-era composer was self-taught and didn't read sheet music. His family immigrated to New York from Imperial Russia when he was 5 years old, and when he was just 13, his father died, so he busked on the streets and worked as a singing waiter to help his family out.
In 1907, at 19, he had his first song published, and just four years later penned his first international hit, "Alexander's Ragtime Band." Berlin had a natural musicality and played music by ear in the key of F-sharp, with the help of his trusted upright transposing piano, a rare instrument that had a mechanism allowing him to shift into different keys. His "trick piano," as he called it, where many of his unforgettable songs first came to life, is on display at the exhibit.
Smokey Robinson Didn't Expect "My Girl" To Become A Timeless Hit
Smokey Robinson was an important part of Motown's hit-making factory as a singer, songwriter and producer. In the exhibit film, he discusses "My Girl," one of his classic tunes, which he wrote and produced for the Temptations in 1965.
"I had no idea it would become what it would become," he said.
He says that people often ask him why he didn't record the unforgettable song with his group the Miracles instead of "giving it away" to the Temptations, but he never regretted his decision. Instead, he's honored to have created music that stands the test of time and means so much to so many people.
Robinson joked that the Temptations' then-lead singer David Ruffin's gruff voice scared girls into going out with him. Really, he loved Ruffin's voice, and thought he'd sound great singing a sweet love song like "My Girl." Safe to say he was right.
After World War II, Pop Music Changed Forever
Prior to World War II, American music operated as a singular mainstream market, and New York's Tin Pan Alley songwriters competed to make the next pop or Broadway hit. In a post-World War II America, especially when the early Baby Boomer generation became teenagers and young adults in the '60s and '70s, tastes changed and new styles of pop and pop songwriting emerged. As rock shook up popular culture, Tin Pan Alley gave way to a new era of young songwriters, many who worked out of just two buildings in midtown Manhattan, 1619 Broadway (the Brill Building) and 1650 Broadway.
In this richly creative and collaborative environment, powerhouse songwriting duos began to emerge and reshape pop music, challenging and balancing each other — and creating a ton of hits in the process. The hit-making duos of this diversified pop era included Burt Bacharach and Hal David (Dionne Warrick's "That's What Friends Are For"), Carole King and Gerry Goffin (Little Eva's "The Loco-Motion"), Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil (the Righteous Brothers' "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'") and Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich (the Ronettes' "Be My Baby" and the Crystals' "Then He Kissed Me," both in collaboration with Phil Spector). In fact, there are far too many classics penned by these four prolific songwriter duos to list here.
While there are still songwriters that pen big hit after hit for pop stars (Max Martin is still at it, as is his protege Oscar Görres), the dynamics in the industry have continued to shift with singers taking on more creative power themselves. Today's pop stars — including Ariana Grande, Dua Lipa and Taylor Swift — have found success co-writing with their own trusted teams of songwriters and producers. But as this new exhibit shows, it doesn't matter who is behind the pen — the power of song is mighty.