I was yanking open another bottle of wine in the jubilant Halloween atmosphere, my batwings caught on the cooler, when the compliment was paid. It was my cousin who tapped me on the shoulder as I struggled to open that wretched wine bottle. “I love your playlist,” she said, motioning to the speakers blaring one of the dozens of Halloween-centric songs I had included on my carefully culled Halloween playlist.
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This is the best Halloween playlist ever
Your haunted house party needs these spooktacular drops.
I paused and put down the wine bottle. “Thank you,” I said, as sincere as I’ve ever been in my 35 years. “That’s the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me.”
It was half a joke. It was one of the few times a guest of our annual Halloween house party had stopped to pay their compliments to the playlist compiler: me. What started in the early-2000s as a CD burned with Napster tracks of varying quality has morphed into an exhaustively selective list of what I believe are perfect songs for a Halloween bash.
There’s a science to it: You don’t want songs that’ll terrify your guests, but you must avoid endless spates of cheesy children’s songs. You need several hours of Halloween-related music—hearing “Thriller” for the fourth time in 90 minutes will have your guests reaching for their car keys—while ensuring that every song is indeed in keeping with the holiday. Upbeat, dancy, fun, with a dash of macabre: This is what makes a worthy Halloween tune.
I’ve dedicated untold hours to creating a Halloween party playlist for everyone, for the people, for a gathering that walks the line between pleasant and spooky. Finding additions for the Halloween playlist has become progressively easier with the advent of streaming services like iTunes and Spotify, services that present subscribers with seasonal playlists that might be pumped out by a heartless algorithm, but do the job in a pinch.
A seasoned Halloween playlist compiler is ready and willing to trim the song docket at any moment—to replace so-so songs with bops, as the kids say on Twitter—that enhance the musical offering at your potentially debauched autumn get together. Below are some of my favorite Halloween tunes (the ones that mix well with the staples like “Thriller”) along with the entirety of my playlist.
References to silver bullets, biting, sharp teeth, the prince of darkness, being terrified, and of course, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. You’re technically a zombie if this song doesn’t make you move. The heavy synth over the acoustic guitar? Inject it straight into my eardrums.
This song, while lyric-less, screams fun and spooky. The electronic drums, the keyboard, the not-so-subtle incorporation of familiar sounds from the Friday the 13th series—it’ll make you feel like you’re running from a masked killer in the woods… in a fun way. This song is supposed to give you chills, which, I’m sure you’ll agree, is cute.
Any song about getting it on under the October moon belongs on any Halloween playlist. Let the jazz flute wash over you like Ron Burgundy in a smoke-filled nightclub.
What begins with an extended wolf’s howl flows into an absolute jam fueled by an electric guitar that’ll knock your mask off. A quick three-minute rock song, this uptempo addition to your playlist is enough to get the party going, or extend the terrible costumed dancing happening all around you.
No one will accuse this tune of being overly complicated: It has a single lyric, the title of the song. The Texas psych-rock icon delivers the only lyric in new ways throughout the song, with his background singers providing some melody to an otherwise rough and tumble effort. By the end, you really will believe Roky walked with the undead.
This ska revival hit from 2016 features Dracula-like organ, weird ghost children cooing in the background, and six minutes of a groove that’ll make your Halloween party guests sway—if their costumes allow it.
Released in 2008, this stripped-down, electronic version of the Halloween classic serves as a nice interlude between the more in-your-face tunes on the playlist. It sounds like a bored robot was programmed to sing “Monster Mash.” Don’t worry, it includes some of the classic sounds from the original hit, along with a lovely little piano bringing some humanity to the song.
The non-remixed version is fine and good, but this version is my party preference. This one has it all: fishnet gloves, leather boots, getting wasted, becoming one with the night (whatever that means), and an insane drop that might knock you over if you’re too close to the speakers.
Sax and trumpet are everywhere in this one, as the singer tells the tale of dining with vampires only to discover that he was, indeed, the main course. There are bursts of insane laughter from this soon-to-be-slaughtered narrator and like any decent Halloween song, it wags its proverbial finger at poor Igor, who can’t seem to get anything right, including scalpel placement. Oh yes, and there are veins for dessert.
This one is a double track addition to your playlist. It starts with the creepiness of an extended howl and a brief monologue about Bowie’s vision of a post-apocalyptic society—rotting corpses, red mutant eyes, flees the size of rats, rats the size of cats. It even has a Halloween reference (Halloween Jack is believed to be an abandoned Bowie alter ego). Just go with it.
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*First Published: Oct 23, 2018, 6:00 am CDT