Today’s Song: John the Ghost Bares His Soul with “Sour Grapes”

Still from John the Ghost's "Sour Grapes" music video

I stare at the mirror, mirror stares back

Sometimes you hear the first line of a song and it just hits you somewhere you can’t quite describe. It has you hooked and draws you in from the first moment your ears catch wind of the introductory note. The words are thrown around like loose change. You can’t quite explain the feeling and there isn’t any word that comes close to summing up that spark that goes with knowing how good a song is without having to listen to the whole thing.

That first line about mirrors presents a deep understanding of the process of introspection. Who are you? What do you want to be? Looking at oneself in the mirror is a powerful thing. You can see yourself through your own eyes; you are the sole critic. Reflect on everything.

Watch: “Sour Grapes” – John the Ghost


In some of the world’s most popular bands, many lead singers and band members often branch out with side projects in order to explore and experiment in new musical territory. It’s been done by Brandon Flowers of The Killers, Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys, and Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend – just to name a few.

However, now it’s time for John O’Callaghan, frontman of pop-punk band The Maine, to leave his own sonic fingerprint on the world. Choosing to go by the name John the Ghost, O’Callaghan picks the perfect persona to explore his most anchoring personal issues as he works them out as a bystander to the music. He is out on his own, exposing himself and all of his his dark thoughts to the universe. One can tell the song is extremely personal as O’Callaghan allows himself to release his inner demons in order to go to a dark place where “Sour Grapes” becomes raw in its sadness and beauty.

I’m through with all the cheap sex and cigarettes
Laced with the taste of my regrets
So save your breath and pretty dress
I don’t miss you at all Ms. Loneliness

It is pure vulnerability. It explains how it feels to let someone in only to have them turn you away and leave you with nothing. It’s a push and pull between innocence and cynicism. John the Ghost sings with a purity that distracts you from the fact that he’s singing about rejecting the girl who is no good for him. He acknowledges he has his addictions but knows that the worst thing for him is her.

John O'Callaghan (John the Ghost) © Cole Kiburz

John O’Callaghan (John the Ghost) © Cole Kiburz

If there’s one thing that stands out from the song, it’s the melody. It’s entrancing and stunning in its simple repetition. Laced with piano and guitar that weaves together his breathy vocals with drums that echo heartbeats. You can feel the tension as he exhales away the frustration and decides to stop reminiscing about the past.

The progression of the song leaves us in a swimming pool of apathy along with O’Callaghan as he tries to turn to a new chapter in his life but keeps getting stuck on the same page. He states confidently he’s done and over the relationship, but it’s as if he’s trying to convince himself he has moved on. The elated harmonies only add to the whirlwind.

Inexplicably, “Sour Grapes” is a song that finds strength in its moments of sadness. It’s a ghost slowly drifting away and saying goodbye to the girl who took his breath away when she left the room. But as she did, John the Ghost can now breathe a little easier and his heart is a little lighter. EP Sincerely, John the Ghost is out now via 8123.

John the Ghost

John the Ghost

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Discover more new music on Atwood’s Picks

Sincerely, John the Ghost

An EP by John the Ghost

Sincerely, John the Ghost EP

Sincerely, John the Ghost EP

Natalie is a journalism honours student at Carleton University. When she isn't listening to music, she can be found lip-synching and dancing to it at the loudest possible volume.