As the summer heat gives way to the cool winds of autumn, it’s time to start getting into the Halloween spirit. You can dress up, you can decorate your house, and you can line up some fun Halloween games, but nothing sets the mood better than a soundtrack. Whether it’s just to pump yourself up for the spookiest time of the year or you’re getting ready for a full-scale monster mash, there are plenty of chill-inducing songs to choose from.
When you think about Halloween, one of the first songs that pops into your head is probably Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” Everything about this song is skin-pricklingly perfect. From the innovative music video featuring the voice of horror icon Vincent Price to its legendary bass line, “Thriller” cemented itself as the perfect mix between spooky aesthetics and pop music. It fits into almost any Halloween party.
Chances are, you’ve heard dozens of versions of “I Put a Spell on You.” After all, it’s a classic. Each one fits a different mood, and you’re sure to find the perfect option for your Halloween needs. Some of the best covers are Bette Midler’s iconic version from “Hocus Pocus” and Nina Simone’s haunting and emotional rendition. However, all the incredible interpretations stem from the one and only Screamin’ Jay Hawkins. Originally, the song was an elegant blues ballad, but a night of drinking led to the creation of one of the greatest Halloween songs of all time.
Almost any song from a Tim Burton film could work as a Halloween song, but few embody the campiness and spookiness of Halloween as well as “This is Halloween” from “A Nightmare Before Christmas.” Listening to the residents of Halloween Town is endless fun and it makes for great group karaoke. Of course, if you’re in the mood for a heavier song, Marilyn Manson’s cover is incredibly popular in its own right.
There’s something spooky about some older songs. The combination of Henry Hall’s cheery vocals with the silly lyrics detailing how to scare off the Bogeyman should create a song that’s too goofy to be frightening. It’s almost like a children’s rhyme or fairy tale. And yet, there's something unsettling about the song, to the point that it has seen a massive resurgence in horror media.
Every generation has a few mainstream artists that embrace dark themes and imagery, elevating them to a new level. Billie Eilish has definitely proven she belongs in this camp. “Bury a Friend” is a masterful song from the perspective of a monster under someone’s bed. As if that wasn’t enough to make the song Halloween-friendly, Eilish’s soft vocals mix with the minimalist instrumentation and a bizarre, staggering composition to make a song that’s both incredibly danceable and supremely haunting.
Video game soundtracks have come a long way and many of their featured tracks wouldn’t be out of place in a Hollywood film. If you weren’t aware of “The Witcher” prior to hearing “Lullaby of Woe,” it could pass for a folk song in a horror trailer. If you or your friends are fans of gaming or just of fantasy-style music, this song is a must-listen for Halloween. Plus, it’s become more relevant than ever thanks to the recent release of the TV series.
Everyone knows about Freddy vs. Jason, but you may not be aware of the original feud: Freddy vs. Will. The Fresh Prince himself, Will Smith, pairs up with DJ Jazzy Jeff to rap about Freddy Krueger over a remix of the musical motif from “A Nightmare on Elm Street.” Nothing gets people as excited as Will Smith rapping and this song brings the perfect wave of ‘80s nostalgia.
What can you say about Rihanna that hasn’t already been said? If you somehow haven’t had the honor of listening to “Disturbia,” you’ve been missing out. Rihanna tackles the concepts of anxiety and anguish while a sizzling, dark beat pumps in the background. The song is incredibly catchy and makes for a perfect Halloween dance song. Plus, everyone will be singing “Bum bum be-dum bum” by the end.
For a more adult-oriented party, throw on “Bad Things” by Jace Everett. Thanks to its selection as the theme song for “True Blood,” this dark love song now has deep ties to vampires and the supernatural. Everet’s rumbling baritone cuts through the song and elevates it to a new level. Alluring and a little menacing, it’s the perfect backing song for a group of vampires.
Yes, that’s actually the song’s name. Despite its admittedly odd title, this song is a great end cap for a Halloween gathering. It has enough momentum to not kill the mood but is just low-key enough to help a party wind down. Stevens graces this song with a ghost-like falsetto as a repeating chorus of women chant over intricate instrumentation. The song is an incredibly atmospheric and oddly haunting dedication to Illinois and makes the perfect addition to any Halloween playlist.
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