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Many probably think it’s impossible to have a Halloween playlist longer than most people’s Christmas music playlists. However, a holiday revolving around mystery, childish traditions, mischief, and sinister desires has been the inspiration for more than a few musicians. Below is a collection of top picks ranging from party bangers to calming witchy vibes to eccentric showtunes.
For when You’re on Aux at the Party
1. “Ghostbusters” — Walk the Moon (2016)
Many versions of “Ghostbusters” exist, but Walk the Moon’s — originally written for the 2016 movie — is a crisp and lively improvement on the original. Don’t write this song off as simply campy; it remains true to Ray Parker Jr.’s ’80s pop vibe that’s perfect for dancing.
2. “Heads Will Roll” — Yeah Yeah Yeahs (2009)
If you’re hoping to “dance ’til you’re dead” this Halloween, this track belongs at the top of your playlist. With a strong electronic guitar warp to open the song, it immediately energizes listeners and sustains an upbeat rock pop quality throughout to keep you going.
3. “Thriller” — Michael Jackson (1982)
This one needs no introduction. With werewolf howls, zombies, and ominous yet energizing ’80s techno beats, Jackson creates a chilling story to get you into the Halloween spirit. And with the right crowd, it can even inspire a flash mob if enough people know the original dance as well.
4. “Monster Mash” — Bobby "Boris" Pickett and the Crypt-Kickers (1962)
This is a genre-defining “Halloween song.” Bobby Pickett, originally from Somerville, Mass., is bound to elicit some childhood nostalgia as he sings from Dr. Frankenstein’s perspective with a campy accent about all the classic monsters, from ghouls to Dracula, doing the popular “Monster Mash” dance. The playfulness of monsters dancing brings out the fun of Halloween for all ages.
5. “It Must Be Halloween” — Andrew Gold (1996)
Andrew Gold’s album “Halloween Howls: Fun & Scary Music” includes most of the classic hits in the Halloween song canon, some as covers and many that he composed himself. “It Must Be Halloween” is one of his originals and bound to make you remember every one of your campy childhood Halloween costumes.
Fueling your Inner Witch
6. “Black Magic Woman” — VCTRYS (2019)
VCTRYS’s cover of the song originally written and sung by Peter Green for his band Fleetwood Mac literally and figuratively brings a woman’s voice to the accusatory song. The words describe a temptress using black magic to attract the singer. Originally a ’60s rock tune, this version is much creepier with its distorted guitar and heavier percussion.
7. “Season of the Witch” — Lana Del Rey (2019)
Lana Del Rey has an amazingly distinct voice and her breathy, dark tone alone is enough to sway women towards witchcraft. In another example of a woman covering a classic that men previously sang, she creates a chilling anthem to play while lighting your candles.
8. “I Put a Spell on You” — Nina Simone (1965)
Do women only sing covers? No, but hearing them take ownership over songs about magic and strong women is pretty empowering. Simone’s deep voice and the jazzy composition create the eerie tone in her superior version of “I Put a Spell on You” which was originally released by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins.
Eerie Folk Rock
9. “Black Magic Woman” — Santana (1970)
Still not the original, but this is the version that really rose to fame when Santana covered it in 1970. Santana went for a much more low key sound than Fleetwood Mac’s original, and their emphasis on the opening guitar solo and constant yet more subtle percussion fit better creating a more mellow Halloween vibe.
10. “In the Room Where You Sleep” — Dead Man’s Bones (2009)
Before he was singing about simping over Barbie, Ryan Gosling was a part of rock duo Dead Man’s Bones, creating haunting songs about monsters and ghosts. Their only album was released in 2009 and incorporates Gosling’s distorted voice to make the music sound even more ominous.
11. “Full Moon” — The Black Ghosts (2008)
You may recognize this song from the opening scenes of “Twilight,” playing over scenes of Bella leaving Arizona for Forks, Washington. The acoustic guitar strumming, echoed vocals, and lyrics idealizing the full moon as a homecoming are perfect for Bella’s journey to a town full of supernatural beings.
12. “Science Fiction/Double Feature” — Richard O’Brien (1975)
“The Rocky Horror Picture Show” is a great watch on Halloween — whether it’s the 1975 Tim Curry movie or a live version you can find near you. Focusing on Frankenfurter, his monster, and the repressed sexual desires of the seemingly traditional Brad and Janet, this musical has fun, upbeat songs following a truly bizarre story.
13. “Masquerade” - Cast of “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”, Jaz Sinclair, Kiernan Shipka, Gavin Leatherwood, Lucy Davis, Miranda Otto, Ross Lynch, Tati Gabrielle
It might seem strange to recommend a cover by the “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” cast rather than the original written for “The Phantom of the Opera,” but the show’s reimagining is much more to the point. This version cuts out the prelude involving a lot of talking and instrumentals and jumps right to the chorus at the masquerade ball, playing into the mystery and masking that embodies Halloween.
.For 20+ more great picks, scroll through our Spotify playlist!
—Staff writer Margo A. Silliman can be reached at email@example.com
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