The global hit record “Get Lucky” is the lead single from Daft Punk’s album that was 4 years in the making. Hailed as the best sounding album in many years, Random Access Memories is a triumphant return for Daft Punk. In many ways, the album sounds like a late 70’s early 80’s recording. That sound was certainly the intention, as ‘RAM’ is an exercise in “old school” analogue recording. Actually, the success of ‘Get Lucky’ is a great example of the benefits of analogue recording and sensibilities, combined with ProTool’s digital editing capabilities. It’s essentially the best of both worlds. According to interviews on Daft’s recording process, they recorded to both ProTools and 2 inch tape running at 15ips. In post production, the Daft Punk team compared and chose the best sounding recordings between the two. Making the recordings on the album a mix of both digital and analogue. This process was costly, as the album budget reaches well into 7 figures! After many listens, I must say it does sound exquisite. Very smooth, round and detailed. It's not at all harsh or edgy. I’d say the money was well spent, especially since Random Access Memories has garnered massive album sales.
When I first heard “Get Lucky” my mind immediately went back to those old Chic albums from the 80's. Nile Roger’s rhythm guitar definitely brings that 80’s Chic vibe. He has that sound patented for sure, only he can make it happen. I love that Daft Punk recruited Niles, essentially going to the source, instead of trying to replicate his sound using other methods.
Pharrell's vocals, sans auto-tune, feel loose and silky. Pharrell is a testament to the fact that just about everybody can sing - and I mean that in a good way. He doesn't have a “singers” voice or a big range but he has style and he’s honest. Honesty and conviction can override a great tone and advanced vocal techniques any day. We all need to believe what the singer is vocalizing, plain and simple. Pharrell's pitchy-ness adds to the vocal texture and gives the song a very human element. It sounds like he has one or two in tune tracks and one or two tracks that are a little off. No matter, they all meld together and its lovely affair. I can just hear the likes of Randy Jackson saying “That's a little pitchy dawg” and he’d be right and wrong at the same time!
The instrumentation is made up of mostly bread and butter elements - bass, drums, guitar and piano. With the exception of the vocoders, there are no “fancy” synths or unique tones. Being that Daft Punk is an electronica band, I sort of expected to hear some new synth tones, and there are plenty on the album. Get Lucky, however, is on the simpler side of life. Simple in instrumentation, but advanced in performance. These bread and butter instruments are played by some of the best musicians in the industry.
Overall, Get Lucky is a interesting mix of mostly old and very little new. With Pharrell being the only “new” element. Most of the appeal comes from the 80’s flavor. It’s not some synth heavy song with heavy programming, but actually a record that could have been made during the Chic/disco era. There’s really nothing modern about it. Maybe that’s why it works so well..
Structure wise, Get Lucky is pretty straight forward. After a somewhat lengthy sixteen bar intro that thoroughly establishes the Chic/disco vibe, Pharrell eases into his verse. Eight bars later we find ourselves in the pre-hook or b-section where Pharrell sings “We've come too far to give up to who we are.” His harmonies are buttery smooth and its one of the many highlights of the song. Next up is the hook for eight bars and another four bars of post hook where Get Lucky repeats. We then get four bars of music that sets up the next verse.
The second verse and hook are a similar affair, but after the hook there’s quite a few ‘Get Lucky’ repeats, bordering on overkill. Fortunately, before it steps into dangerous overly repetitious territory, the Robots start to do their thing with the vocoder.
We are then treated to a full twenty four bars of Daft Punk’s vocoder goodness. Its a welcome addition, firmly taking ownership of the song from Pharrell. Next, the hook returns and ‘We’re up all night to Get Lucky’ repeats once again, but this time for a whopping sixteen bars! Just in case you were a little unsure of what the title of the song was - now you know. Its been drilled into all of our heads. Luckily, after the first eight bars, we get treated to a breakdown which adds a little variation - thanks guys! Needed that.
So, after the ‘Get Lucky’ beatdown, the song vamps out. I’m into song endings and I like when some attention is given to the final seconds - instead of a song just fading out, and giving up. The synth line in the ending bars are a nice touch and takes us out on a good vibe.
Sometimes, when a song is really good, and recorded/produced very well - you don’t need an elaborate mix. This is the case with Get Lucky. The trick here was to not muck it up and over do it. Its all about restraint, just let it be. I read in the excellent Sound on Sound interview that the mixes were simplistic. According to the interview, there were no plugins used - outboard gear only. Minimal compression, and only eq when necessary. Easy breezy. I hear a slight delay and verb on Pharrell and that might just be all of the effects used in the mix. Things did get complicated when it was time to print as they mixed down into Pro Tools and to three (yes, three) half-inch Ampex tape machines. One running at 15ips and the other two at 30ips. The team chose the best sounding recordings of the four for mastering.
The best of analogue, the best of digital, and some of the best musicians/producers/engineers in the world come together to create a worldwide hit record. No surprises there. If they didn’t make great records that would be a problem. They even got away with a couple of no-no’s like repeating ‘Get Lucky’ for like an hour! Ok, sixteen bars, but still - let me try that. The record label gatekeepers would chime in immediately with hey bruh, you can’t do that! And hey, they know everything about music right? Umm wait...
Get Lucky vitals:
5+ Million worldwide single sales
#1 on Billboard Hot 100
Key of F# minor
Four chords used throughout the entire song - Bm7-D-F#m7-E. Easy right?