Spending all day listening to new albums we don’t do a lot of radio so we didn’t know that Lukas Graham Forchhammer and his band had scored a number one hit with 7 Years and that everyone has heard of him.
Graham seems to be one of those preternaturally talented performers who pop up every now and then, a debut album with mature songs and a voice of experience beyond their years. Ed Sheeran is another; we caught him on an early tour at Keele University and while the music was a little bland, we could only admire his maturity and work ethic.
Lukas Graham has the same quality, though his music has more edge and draws on RnB far more than Sheeran. If Sheeran is a global superstar, Graham will soon be interstellar.
The album opens with 7 Years, a folksy story that tells of young Lukas asking his family for advice and hoping he has a loving family around him when he turns 60.
Family is important to Graham — he grew up in a hippy/squatter/anarchist community in Copenhagen with no cars, streetlights and police. The commune, Christiania, was created from a squatted military area in 1971. Its cannabis trade was tolerated by authorities until 2004. After 2004, measures for normalising its legal status led to conflicts, police raids and negotiations. The Press release says that in 2010 Graham left Christiana to escape its darker side — in 2005, Wikipedia reports that a 26-year-old Christiania man was killed and three others injured in a violent gang assault on Pusher Street, in a feud over the cannabis market. This mix of tight family/community and darkness typifies the album.
Other songs based on his family include Mama Said (better to be in a happy, close family than one where money comes first) and Happy Home. The darker side of life in Christiana is also reported — Better Than Yourself is about visiting a childhood friend in prison while Drunk In The Morning is about calling people up when in that state.
Musically, it’s clear he’s a fan of classic RnB/soul (James Brown and Al Green) but he’s fan of hip hop too and nicks It’s The Hard Knock Life from Annie as did Jay Z, and he samples Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, too.
At first play through the music comes over as mainly inoffensive (he may well join Robbie Williams’ Angels in the trendy funeral music charts) but listening to the lyrics and seeing where he grew up it gets more interesting. It is very, very commercial pop, though.