The thing about Halloween pop is that it is static and terrible. Whereas Christmas music is an insatiable, endless retail outlet buffet, Halloween’s recurring noise is bullied by “Monster Mash” and “Thriller.” The most resonant playlist add in the last 15 years has been TV gimmick track, “Werewolf Bar mitzvah.”
That’s your nagging entry point. What’s worse, it’s just about impossible to dance to creaky noises or witches cackling. This isn’t a haunted house—times are changing and humanity has earned a passable Halloween playlist.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been fortunate enough to be at generally terrific Halloween parties that stall because the music is not serving its public. A Halloween party playlist needs to, above all, make you dance. (Unless of course you are trying to frighten your children—in that case the classic looped cassettes are bulletproof). My greatest Halloween memory was the time in 2007 where the guy dressed as the zany Burger King was doing the robot. That’s what we’re building toward.
To prepare I emailed my colleague, photographer Drew Anthony Smith. He DJs parties as DJ twoKITTENSchocolateKISSES: “Typical Halloween tracks turn a party into a boring wedding. I think it’s better to strive for a vibe versus playing generic songs.”
Problem is Halloween is not an occasion to spin hip vinyl. You ultimately need to make concessions. At the end of the day, people want to hear “Thriller.” There’s a blurry line between taste and results.
“When done right, people will dance to your ‘taste’ tracks,” Smith wrote. “I want to hear new music when I go to a party and hope others want to hear something they don’t already know about.”
Smith left our exchange by graciously linking me a beefy Mediafire file containing his 2014 Halloween DJ mix (it is hearty and strong), and the following essential playlist additions.
My personal thinking is that you play to the times and simultaneously get creative. Songs should make you halfway think about the occasion you’re at as well. Get cute with it: Ghost Town DJs have that insanely gorgeous “My Boo” track that is a surefire, all-day banger. This guy at a nondescript dance party one time dropped the opening 30 seconds of “Bump n’ Grind” and then as everyone sung along, immediately swept us off our feet with a “My Pony” drop. Maybe do that?
In any case, the point is to reflect the times, touch on your developmental cornerstones, and just have some fun out there. But definitely find room for “Shake It Off” and DJ Mustard. You want “Birthday Song” so that a zombie sings along to “When I die, bury me inside the Gucci store.” If you want the locks to start popping, I’d throw this on around midnight.
Photo by Peter Thoeny/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)