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On This Day in Billboard Dance History: Daft Punk, Pharrell Williams & Nile Rodgers Got Lucky

If there were a Mount Rushmore of electronic music, Daft Punk’s helmets would surely be blasted into the side of a mountain. But in fact, the robot icons have only have a single No. 1 song to their name.

In the spring of 2013, the anticipation around Daft Punk’s forthcoming LP was kinetic. It had been eight years since the duo’s last studio album, Human After All — a noisy, industrial electro banger that extended the game-changing aural aesthetic of their prior two LPs, 1997’s Homework and 2001’s Discovery.

It had also been seven years since Daft Punk’s seminal 2006 Coachella performance, which is still cited as one of the best shows in the 20-year history of the festival and is considered a gateway moment for the burgeoning rise of dance music in the United States.

So by 2013, dance fans were properly foaming at the mouth for the duo’s fourth studio LP, Random Access Memories. Given the robotic, sleek as chrome sound of Daft Punk’s prior output, however, no one really expected the album’s lead single to be a disco anthem.

But so it went with “Get Lucky.” Featuring vocals from Pharrell Williams and guitar work from Chic’s Nile Rodgers — a key disco pioneer in his own right — the song was a breezy, funky, pick-up line of a dance track. Williams delivered such haiku lyrical come-ons including “the present has no ribbon, your gift keeps on giving, what is this I’m feeling? If you wanna leave I’m with it,” while Rodgers played shuffling guitar over a relaxed drum pattern that altogether sounded more like the soundtrack to a on a sunset yacht cruise than an anthem for the dark clubs that much of Daft Punk’s prior output had inhabited.

Audiences in the electronic scene and well beyond devoured the song, which officially dropped on April 19, 2013. This was also the first day of the second weekend of Coachella 2013, with “Get Lucky” being teased during the first weekend of the fest via a trailer — featuring Daft Punk, Williams and Rodgers playing the song — that was broadcast on the mainstage jumbotrons just before the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ evening set.

“The video caused more excitement that many of the bands playing live across the festival’s six stages,” Billboard reported of the promo in 2013, “re-igniting rumors and raising hopes that the French duo might just make an in-the-flesh appearance on-stage before Coachella closes its gates on Sunday.”

In fact there was no such appearance by the duo at Coachella or anywhere else in advance of the song. (Though Stephen Colbert did recruit a gaggle of celebs including Jeff Bridges, Jimmy Fallon and Bryan Cranston to dance to “Get Lucky” with him after Daft Punk canceled an appearance on The Colbert Report.) But that didn’t stop the song from skyrocketing to center of mainstream consciousness and the top of the charts.

By July 13, 2013,”Get Lucky” was in the midst of spending 13 weeks at No. 1 on the Hot Dance/Electronic Songs chart, with the run beginning June 1 and lasting through Aug. 24. (At the time, the chart itself was still relatively new to Billboard, debuting five months earlier in January of 2013.)

It was a slam dunk for a track that had been a year and a half in the making. Daft Punk first connected with Rodgers in the late ’90s at a listening party for Homework. When they duo were in New York working on Random Access Memories, they invited him to stop by to the studio, which was in fact the same space where Rodger’s iconic disco act Chic had recorded some of their early work.

Meanwhile, Pharrell met the robots in Paris after hearing that they were working on a project and jonesing to get involved. “If you just want me to play tambourine, I’ll do it,” Williams recalled telling the duo in a 2013 interview with Rolling Stone.

Daft Punk did minimal promo behind Random Access Memories and never toured the album, despite the massive interest. The most notable public performance of “Get Lucky” came at the 2014 Grammy Awards, where the song won for best pop duo/group performance and record of the year, and Random Access Memories picked up another trio of trophies for engineered album, non-classic, dance/electronic album and album of the year.

Playing with Williams, Rodgers and Stevie Wonder, Daft Punk appeared in white suits and helmets and jammed along on a mashup of their own of “Harder Better, Faster, Stronger,” Chic’s “Le Freak” and Wonder’s “Another Star.” Video of the performance might still give you goosebumps. Even Ringo Starr and Sir Paul McCartney were up dancing.

Seven years later and “Get Lucky” remains Daft Punk’s only Hot Dance/Electronic Songs No. 1 or even top 10. If you were there to experience the swirl of excitement and cultural impact of the jam, consider yourself lucky.

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