In 2007, the web as we know it was still just a baby. YouTube had launched a little over a year earlier and was still mostly populated by teenagers vlogging about fights with their parents, cat videos (Keyboard Cat still reigned supreme), “Chocolate Rain,” and reactions to 2 Girls 1 Cup.
It was also the year Daft Punk released a live album, Alive 2007, and introduced the world to the live version of “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger.” The track was on their 2001 studio album Discovery, but the live version took hold of our brains in a new way, perhaps because the internet was finally ready for it. We were waiting for a repetitive techno-beat to rise to meme status—and it all looks a lot like today’s TikTok trends.
The first time I saw “Daft Bodies”—a low-res video of two girls in sports bras and tinfoil helmets dancing with the lyrics of “Harder” drawn on their skin with a Sharpie—I thought it might be the craziest thing I could imagine anyone doing with a webcam at the time. (I was a naive teen.)
I’d seen “Daft Hands,” a tribute to Daft Punk by Austin Hall that similarly choreographed the lyrics of “Harder” onto 10 fingers four months earlier. He wore a plastic green sparkly bracelet, the kind I definitely also owned at the time. The hand dance seemed impressively difficult, but eventually became boring—maybe partially because it was inescapable for a month or two, and made it onto the Ellen Degeneres Show (this time with a thick hemp bracelet on his wrist that I also owned). There are versions dancing to the track where pet owners puppet their dogs along to the beat, and this 12-year-old Dailymotion video that looks like found footage unearthed from the rubble of my repressed memories—the slouchy skater beanie and two-layered shirt is a personal attack on my adolescence.
The Guardian noted there was a “DIY Daft Punk video craze” in 2008. The song won a Grammy for Best Dance Recording in 2009. This was when memes lasted for more than three days. A good meme could sustain us for years.
The girls doing the full-body version, revealing a new word and lyric with each of their robo-moves, was way cooler than any of these, I thought. I probably account for at least 50 of the 20,661,000 views “Daft Bodies” has now.
Weezer featured the Daft Bodies pair in its video for Pork and Beans, but after that, they disappeared. They’re probably in their thirties based on the teenage YouTube demographic of the time, but that’s the best guess most people who’ve spent any time trying to find them have. Some on Reddit speculate that they went into nursing or the medical field, but mostly, they’re hard to find, possibly on purpose after their internet fame. (If you’re one of the Daft Bodies pair, please get in touch!)
Daft Punk announced on Monday that the band is splitting up for good. Hall posted a video of himself playing a sad tribute melody hours after the announcement, with their iconic helmets drawn on the backs of his hands.
At the end, he takes a pair of scissors off the keyboard and snips the emo bracelet from his wrist, revealing his hands to say “AU REVOIR” to the French techno duo. We are all fully 30+ years old at this point, yet I’m getting emotional.
Daft Hands, Daft Bodies, and the Daft Punk dance meme craze in general, was the precursor to the trend-dance teen culture we’re entrenched in today: a time when a Logitech camera and a fresh pack of Sharpies could launch you into minor celebrity. Nothing really changes, except the dances have gotten a little harder. A little better, and faster. Stronger, even.