'Tron: Legacy' At 10: How Daft Punk Built An Enduring Soundtrack

Daft Punk at the world premiere of 'TRON: Legacy' in 2010

Photo: Alberto E. Rodriguez/WireImage


'Tron: Legacy' At 10: How Daft Punk Built An Enduring Soundtrack

Released December 3, 2010, the soundtrack album pushed Daft Punk's music to new, exciting places and underscored the duo's prowess with live instrumentation

GRAMMYs/Dec 7, 2020 - 01:57 am

In December 2010, The Walt Disney Company took a chance—the kind only a business can take when they're the most powerful entertainment conglomerate in the world. They took Tron—a 1982 film about the world and programs living inside computers that enjoyed a dedicated, if small, cult following—and gave it a sequel. Tron: Legacy brought back original star Jeff Bridges, alongside fresh faces Garrett Hedlund and Olivia Wilde, to revisit the film's computer world of "The Grid" with the help of some much-updated digital effects. 

As a film, Tron: Legacy was a mixed bag at the time, earning a modest, by Disney's standards, $400 million over its theatrical run. The movie garnered praise for its impressive visuals, while drawing criticism toward some questionable acting—and even more questionable de-aging effects on Bridges. Ten years on, many aspects of Tron: Legacy hold up quite well, especially its soundtrack, composed by none other than French electronic music duo, Daft Punk

By 2010, Daft Punk were already legends in the electronic music community. The duo, composed of producers Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, had three studio albums under the belt across a career that was nearing its second decade by then, but each release showcased the meticulous genius of their craft. So, too, was their artist persona well-set, with their signature robotic helmets and gloves and their aversion to interviews combining to craft an enigmatic aura around them that only heightened their mythical status. 

One only needs to look at the singles the group charted throughout the decades to understand the vast breadth of Daft Punk's skill and musical knowledge. "Da Funk," off their 1997 debut album, Homework, naturally draws from the groovy basslines and percussions of funk. The shimmering "Face To Face," off Discovery (2001), incorporates disco into the mix, and the undeniable "One More Time," from the same album, mashes sampled horns, jubilant dance music rhythms and French house music into a track that remains a foundational piece of electronic music in the 21st century. 

Even with that amount of range and expertise, it was no sure thing from either side to have Daft Punk compose the film's soundtrack. In one of the few interviews the duo gave about Tron: Legacy, Bangalter told The Hollywood Reporter that director Joe Kosinski had reached out to them all the way back in 2007, with no script in hand to reference. "We were on tour at that time, and it took almost a year to decide whether we had the desire and the energy to dive into something like that," Bangalter recalled. 

As well, there was initial hesitation from Disney to give the duo free rein. Another interview with the Los Angeles Times revealed that the original plan was to pair Daft Punk with a much more traditional and established film composer like Hans Zimmer. Instead, the final product saw Daft Punk forging ahead largely on their own, and the results speak for themselves.

A conversation about the artistry within the Tron: Legacy soundtrack has to mention the original 1982 Tron soundtrack. Composed by Wendy Carlos, a pioneering electronic musician and composer, it planted the seeds for Daft Punk. While the original soundtrack is largely a traditional symphonic score, Carlos did incorporate synths where she could, like on mid-movie track, "Tron Scherzo." Even where she didn't, the physical instruments mirrored the chimes and notifications of a computer system, as in the intro to "Water, Music, and Tronaction." Daft Punk took these concepts and ran with them.

It's evident from the intro of Tron: Legacy's "Overture" how the duo innately understands the sounds they're working with and how they operate within the world of Tron. Instead of drawing from French house or club music, they pull from the sounds of an actual computer. The low thrum in the opening seconds sounds like a system booting up, and the lone horn delivering the main melodic line instantly connects this soundtrack with the original. The duo told the Los Angeles Times that the original film captivated them, and these direct links back to it prove they did their homework. 

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Each track Daft Punk created stands on its own without the film. The cascading synth building with a sense of urgency on "Son Of Flynn" is prime Daft Punk in its understanding of tempo and musical momentum. "Derezzed," played in the film's neon club scene—in which the duo make a blink-and-you-miss-it cameo as the DJs—is an electronic dance track through and through. "Adagio For Tron" is a moving, sorrowful ode to a fallen hero, with a minor key and just a hint of a synth beat under the orchestral rise.

Altogether, the production across the soundtrack is topnotch. Moments like the live percussion blending into the synths in "The Game Has Changed" show a great understanding of both film scoring as well as the concept of bridging technology and humanity, a central theme in the film.

Much of Daft Punk's approach to Tron: Legacy is rooted in a darker, more ominous sound, which is a major reason why the soundtrack and the movie both still resonate today: They're decidedly more cynical and pessimistic than the original. Tron arrived at the dawn of widespread home computing, and both the film and its soundtrack embody the optimism of what technology could do for the average person. In 2010, things were vastly different. Mass data collection, security hacks and stolen information, social media toxicity, and disinformation spread were the name of the game; it's only gotten worse over time. 

Consequently, Tron: Legacy is cynical in its view and appropriately more sinister in its aesthetic, an approach Daft Punk heightened with their soundtrack. "Rinzler," the theme for one of the film's main villains, drips with menace from its abrasive percussion and moody synths. Even "Flynn Lives" and "Finale," two of the tracks at the end of the movie where the heroes emerge triumphantly, are more subdued than a typical climactic piece, with horns that fade quickly and quiet string sections taking their place.

2010 was a high-water mark for popular artists stepping into film music, with Daft Punk's Tron: Legacy soundtrack and Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross' The Social Network score dropping in the same year. Still, the influence has been felt periodically on film scores since. Sucker Punch (2011) leaned heavily into dance and electronica in its cover album soundtrack, and Arcade Fire provided a futuristic tilt to Her (2013). For its part, Disney clearly learned the right lesson when it came to pairing a visionary film with an equally visionary artist: On the Black Panther soundtrack album (2018), Kendrick Lamar married his music with the film's fictional world of Wakanda, an approach extremely similar to what Daft Punk created on Tron: Legacy.

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Daft Punk, too, learned some things they took to heart. The integration of more live instrumentation within their production, an understanding and homage of music that came before, and the challenge to explore new genres resulted in something truly special: the duo's 2013 album, Random Access Memories. It's a disco album that switched gears heavily to include more live instruments than Bangalter and de Homem-Christo had ever used in their own material before, and included direct tributes to electronic music legends like Giorgio Moroder. (The duo's magnum opus, Random Access Memories won the coveted Album Of The Year honor at the 56th GRAMMY Awards in 2014.) And each of these new elements can be traced to the work they started on Tron: Legacy.

It's fitting that Tron: Legacy and its soundtrack released in December. The cold winter matches the darkness of The Grid and the tired cynicism of what technology can achieve. But December is also so close to the start of a new year, to the hope of something different and to the promise to do more and to do better. On Tron: Legacy, Daft Punk reached deep into their knowledge to push their music to new, exciting places. It still endures as a testament to their craft 10 years later.

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Rotimi On Performing At ESSENCE Fest, Growing Up African-American & More



Rotimi On Performing At ESSENCE Fest, Growing Up African-American & More

The Nigerian-American singer and actor sat down with the Recording Academy to talk about what inspired his latest album, 'Walk With Me'

GRAMMYs/Jul 8, 2019 - 10:04 pm

In 2015, Rotimi stepped into the New Orleans Superdome for the first time to experience the magic of ESSENCE Fest. Four years later, in 2019, the "Love Riddim" singer returned to the celebration as a performer, something he said was spoken into existence.

"Last year me and my manager had a conversation and I said, 'Listen, I'm going to be on the [ESSENCE] mainstage this year. 365 days later, we did it," Rotimi told the Recording Academy at the 25th annual ESSENCE Fest.

Rotimi, also an actor on Starz' "Power," has evolved since his last album, 2017's Jeep Music, Vol.1. The singer said he really hit home with its follow-up, the recently released Walk With Me, a project he worked hard for, putting in hours in the studio after filming on set.

"Walk With Me is the first time I actually felt like I was giving myself as an artist, and personally I feel like with everything else I have going on I wanted to show people that this is really what I do," he said. "I wanted people to understand who Rotimi is, who Rotimi was before, who I want to be and just understand my growth and the journey and my passion for what I do."

Part of why the album felt like such a representation of him is because it embodies beats of his African roots, something he said was very present growing up Nigerian-American. 

"I grew up with a lot of Fela Kuti and I grew up with Bob Marley," he said of his musical roots. "But I also grew up with Carl Thomas and Genuine and Usher, so there was a genuine mixture of who I am and what I've grown up to listen to. The actual Walk With Me project was a mixture of influences of Akon and Craig David."

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Find Out Who's Nominated For Best Rap Album | 2020 GRAMMY Awards


Find Out Who's Nominated For Best Rap Album | 2020 GRAMMY Awards

Dreamville, Meek Mill, 21 Savage, Tyler, The Creator, and YBN Cordae all earn nominations in the category

GRAMMYs/Nov 20, 2019 - 06:28 pm

The 2020 GRAMMYs are just around the corner, and now the nominations are in for the coveted honor of Best Rap Album. While we'll have to wait until the 62nd GRAMMY Awards air on CBS on Jan. 26 to find out who will win, let's take a look at which albums have been nominated for Best Rap Album.

Revenge of the Dreamers III – Dreamville                                                                        

This star-studded compilation album from 11-time GRAMMY nominee J. Cole and his Dreamville Records imprint features appearances from some of the leading and fastest-rising artists in hip-hop today, including label artists EARTHGANG, J.I.D, and Ari Lennox, plus rappers T.I, DaBaby, and Young Nudy, among many others. Recorded in Atlanta across a 10-day recording session, Revenge of the Dreamers III is an ambitious project that saw more than 300 artists and producers contribute to the album, resulting in 142 recorded tracks. Of those recordings, 18 songs made the final album, which ultimately featured contributions from 34 artists and 27 producers.

Dreamers III, the third installment in the label’s Revenge of the Dreamers compilation series, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart and achieved gold status this past July. In addition to a Best Rap Album nod, Dreamers III is also nominated for Best Rap Performance next year for album track “Down Bad,” featuring J.I.D, Bas, J. Cole, EARTHGANG, and Young Nudy.

Championships – Meek Mill

In many ways, Championships represents a literal and metaphorical homecoming for Meek Mill. Released in November 2018, Championships is the Philadelphia rapper’s first artist album following a two-year prison sentence he served after violating his parole in 2017. Championships, naturally, sees Meek tackling social justice issues stemming from his prison experience, including criminal justice reform. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, his second chart-topper following 2015’s Dreams Worth More Than Money, and reached platinum status in June 2019. Meek Mill's 2020 Best Rap Album nod marks his first-ever GRAMMY nomination.

i am > i was – 21 Savage

Breakout rapper and four-time GRAMMY nominee 21 Savage dropped i am > i was, his second solo artist album, at the end of 2018. The guest-heavy album, which features contributions from Post Malone, Childish Gambino, J. Cole, and many others, has since charted around the world, topped the Billboard 200 – a first for the artist – in the beginning of 2019, and achieved gold status in the U.S. As well, nine songs out of the album’s 15 original tracks landed on the Hot 100 chart, including multi-platinum lead single “A Lot,” which is also nominated for Best Rap Song next year. 21 Savage’s 2020 Best Rap Album nomination, which follows Record of the Year and Best Rap/Sung Performance nods for his 2017 Post Malone collaboration, "Rockstar,” marks his first solo recognition in the top rap category.

IGOR – Tyler, The Creator

The eccentric Tyler, The Creator kicked off a massive 2019 with his mid-year album, IGOR. Released this past May, IGOR, Tyler’s fifth solo artist album, is his most commercially successful project to date. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, marking his first time topping the coveted chart, while its lead single, "Earfquake,” peaked at No. 13, his highest entry on the Hot 100. Produced in full by Tyler and featuring guest spots from fellow rap and R&B stars Kanye West, Lil Uzi Vert, Solange, and Playboi Carti, among many others, IGOR follows the rapper’s 2017 album, Flower Boy, which received the Best Rap Album nod that same year.

The Lost Boy – YBN Cordae

Emerging rapper YBN Cordae, a member of the breakout YBN rap collective, released his debut album, The Lost Boy, to widespread critical acclaim this past July. The 15-track release is stacked with major collaborations with hip-hop heavyweights, including Anderson .Paak, Pusha T, Meek Mill, and others, plus production work from J. Cole and vocals from Quincy Jones. After peaking at No. 13 on the Billboard 200, The Lost Boy now notches two 2020 GRAMMY nominations: Best Rap Album and Best Rap Song for album track “Bad Idea,” featuring Chance the Rapper.

Brittany Howard, Brandi Carlile, Leon Bridges, 2 Chainz & More Join Small Business Live Benefit Livestream

Brittany Howard

Photo: C Brandon/Redferns/Getty Images


Brittany Howard, Brandi Carlile, Leon Bridges, 2 Chainz & More Join Small Business Live Benefit Livestream

Proceeds from the event will be go toward loans to small businesses founded by people of color, with additional support to women-owned and immigrant-owned businesses, via Accion Opportunity Fund

GRAMMYs/Jun 16, 2020 - 04:13 am

This Saturday, June 20, artists including Brittany Howard, Brandi Carlile, Leon Bridges, 2 Chainz and more will come together for Small Business Live, a livestream fundraiser event for small businesses facing challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Proceeds from the livestream will go to Accion Opportunity Fund to support small businesses founded by people of color, with additional support to women-owned and immigrant-owned businesses.

“Entrepreneurs of color are denied credit more often and charged higher rates for money they borrow to fund their businesses. We need to accelerate support to underserved businesses in order to reach our full potential,” Accion Opportunity Fund CEO Luz Urrutia said. “We have to decide what we want our Main Streets to look like when this is over, and we must act decisively to keep small businesses alive and ready to rebuild. This is a fun way to do something really important. Everyone’s support will make a huge difference to small business owners, their families and employees who have been devastated by this pandemic, the recession, and centuries of racism, xenophobia and oppression.”

Tune in for Small Business Live Saturday, June 20 from 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. EDT on The site also provides a full schedule of programs and links to watch the livestream on all major digital platforms. To learn more about Accion Opportunity Fund, visit the organization's website.

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Stephen Schwartz, Five For Fighting Pen Music For "Harmony" Cop Show

Five For Fighting

Photo: Steve Jennings/Getty Images


Stephen Schwartz, Five For Fighting Pen Music For "Harmony" Cop Show

"Harmony": ABC's New Musical Cop Show

GRAMMYs/Nov 3, 2017 - 10:14 pm

Remember that short-lived 1990 ABC show called "Cop Rock" that outrageously saw, for example, a jury, judge and courtroom erupt in a rousing chorus of "He's Guilty"? No? Well, that's maybe not a surprise.

Created by "Hill Street Blues" creator Steven Bochco, the musical and cop drama combination was perhaps ahead of its time. "Cop Rock" only aired for 11 episodes before the network pulled the plug. But now, ABC thinks it's time to give the genre a second chance.

With GRAMMY-winning composer Stephen Schwartz ("Wicked") and Five For Fighting's John Ondrasik on board, ABC has put considerable development resources behind a new show called "Harmony," created with Bradley Bredeweg and Peter Paige.

The musical show centers on the residents of the appropriately named city of Harmony, N.Y., with, according to Billboard, "the most unique dialect in the world: They sing their feelings and dance their emotions." After a murder threatens the tourist destination, a "repressed" detective returns to the singsong town he left as a teenager to not only solve the murder, but to resolve his own past.

Now that 27 years has passed since "Cop Rock," which TV Guide ranked as the eighth worst TV show of all time in 2002, the network hopes TV viewers will finally be ready for the unconquered territory of solving crimes while singing.

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