Daft Punk, the mysterious French EDM duo that doesn't tour, dresses like robots, has not performed live since 2007 and is more influential on pop music than at any point in its 20-year history, is currently schooling everyone on what a state-of-the-art contemporary music-marketing campaign looks like -- a campaign in which the artist does practically nothing except set off one tiny spark that a more-than-willing media fans into an Internet inferno.
After the duo confirmed via Facebook they had signed with Columbia Records in late Februrary, a cryptic, blink-and-you-miss-it ad ran on NBC's Saturday Night Live the night of March 3. The commerical featured only a few seconds of a new song and an image of a bifurcated helmet that (much later) turned out to be the cover of the duo's forthcoming album, Random Access Memories.
It didn't take long before someone spun those 15 seconds into a popular Internet meme featuring the gruff but lovable character Ron Swanson from NBC's Parks & Recreation
Community. Spin, for one, looped that one short clip into ten solid hours of new Daft Punk to oblige demand from some of its readers.
But the Daft Punk deluge began in earnest the week of SXSW. The fences and sides of downtown Austin buildings were awash with posters featuring that helmet, as well as rumors of an impending surprise live performance - including one really choice story that Daft Punk was playing a party at the Texas State Capitol hosted by sitting Texas Governor and noted Francophobe Rick Perry.
Although they ultimately never showed, some blogs were on minute-by-minute Daft Punk watch right up until the moment SXSW was over. Some people spent an awful lot of time and energy chasing those rumors -- tweeting pictures of supposed tour buses and whatnot -- so at least their efforts add up to a pretty fascinating (if somewhat sad) read.
Last Friday night, the robot-helmet image was also projected on the side of a wall at Miami's Ultra Music Festival, among rumors that Daft Punk's spaceship would descend and the duo would close out the festival's second weekend. Sadly, that didn't happen either. (In signature cheeky style, Buzzfeed has since rounded up posters all over the globe into "Where In the World is Daft Punk?")
Then, Saturday, pertinent details came down from on high, or rather @DaftPunkNews, a Twitter feed with no ties to Daft Punk beyond extreme fandom: Random Access Memories will be released on May 21. A collective sigh could be felt across Twitter, which could have been relief, but also disappointment that there was no more mystery to solve. But hey, new Daft Punk album in two months!
But to understand the degree of interest in these two disco robots -- who allegedly answer to the human names Guy Manuel de Hominem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter -- some of the more ravenous music-news gatherers saw fit to comb through the mountains of utterly mundane commercial transactions to report that Daft Punk had indeed officially registered the new album with Sony, and went on to reveal how many tracks were on it and the running time. Only the name remained a mystery.
Based on the length alone, one Austrailian blogger said, "We know it's going to be epic."
Of course it will be. Now, along with the rest of the planet, Houston remains eagerly anticipating the release of Random Access Memories, and dreaming of the robots' first-ever visit to the Bayou City. What a scene that would be -- maybe Daft Punk and NASA can cook something up.
But in January, the group rather firmly announced that it has no plans to tour this year, so that is unlikely to ever happen. But then Stereo Live will be hosting One More Time, a tribute act named after DP's best-known single, on May 11.
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And you never know just who may be under those helmets, right?