Lukas Forchhammer, the lead singer of the hitmaking Danish pop band Lukas Graham, has figured out the hard part: How to write catchy songs with lyrics of substance that connect with Top 40 radio listeners. However, what he hasn’t learned yet is how to be a pop star.
That was apparent Wednesday night at the Myth nightclub in Maplewood. Forchhammer, 27, was friendly, likable and soul-baring until he turned into an ingratiating, chest-baring motormouth who didn’t fully think about the impact of his patter or his lyrics.
With the hits “Mama Said,” “You’re Not There” and the thrice Grammy-nominated “7 Years,” Forchhammer has staked his claim by singing about family situations. In song, he praises his mother, grandfather and late father, who was the inspiration for several songs performed Wednesday. Between songs, the singer talked expansively about his 4-month-old daughter and how she has impacted his life and even the meaning of some of the numbers, which were written long before she was born.
How could a new father espousing deep-rooted family values go from singing the piano ballad “Mama Said,” about Mom telling him his childhood was different but OK, to the irresistibly catchy “Strip No More” about pining for a stripper to whom he lost his virginity, to then talking about giving his daughter a “Happy Home”? What kind of moral compass does that represent?
Forchhammer, 27, was as confessional between songs as he was during them. He explained that of the young men he grew up with in a section of Copenhagen, one out of four is incarcerated at any time. “I guess I chose the right path and they didn’t,” he said before launching into “Criminal Mind,” a selection from Lukas Graham’s first album.
Most of the material in the 15-song, 75-minute set was drawn from “Lukas Graham,” the 2016 album that has made the band one of the hotter new pop acts of the moment. The 1,500 or so fans sang along enthusiastically to album tracks like “Hayo,” prompting Forchhammer to tell them that they were the wildest crowd on the band’s U.S. club tour. And he pointed out that the Twin Cities had given Lukas Graham the loudest response on December’s Jingle Ball tour featuring several hitmaking acts. Then he suggested that Lukas Graham should come back and perform in both Minneapolis and St. Paul next time.
At least, his keening tenor seemed more sincere than his patter. He brought a palpable emotionalism to lyrics such as “7 Years,” in which he contemplates growing up and aging like his parents. His voice had a bit of an alluring warble, reminiscent of Ed Sheeran, James Bay and Vance Joy, other young pop stars who have been on Top 40 radio in the past couple of years.
Lukas Graham, a guitar-less quartet, favors a pop-soul sound that was augmented in concert by three horn players. At turns, the sound suggested Maroon 5, Fitz & the Tantrums and Mayer Hawthorne, all of whom owe a debt to Hall & Oates, clearly an antecedent to Lukas Graham.
Forchhammer has always touted hip-hop as his principal influence. While his vocal delivery manifested an occasional hip-hop cadence at the Myth, the only obvious hip-hop move was for Forchhammer to take off his T-shirt and reveal that he doesn’t have the requisite six-pack abs to bare his body. He’s better off sticking to baring his soul in song.