The Quintessential Halloween Playlist
Get the most out your Halloween experience with this playlist featuring favorites and hidden gems.
This Halloween season, before the trick-or-treaters arrive or you don your own costume, set up a Halloween music mix on YouTube. This will ensure you have the right vibe for the evening.
Some listeners will prefer a more “haunting” or “scary” music mix as opposed to a “fun” or “kid-friendly” list of songs. What it boils down to is the overall tone you want to set for your Halloween experience.
For those who want to go the scary and haunting route, Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie, and the soundtrack from Girl With a Dragon Tattoo would be a good choice. There are heavy beats and creepy lyrics to make the skin crawl and assault the ears. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, the composers behind Girl With a Dragon Tattoo, mix electric and strings to create an eerie sound that builds and builds. These music choices are perfect if you want to slowly unnerve your guests, or spook trick-or-treaters.
If you want a more fun and kid-friendly Halloween music list, then stick with the classics like Monster Mash. They may be old, but they’ve got a certain appeal that endures through time.
The list below, created by yours truly, is a mix of both. A few classics are in there, a few scary tracks, along with some lesser-known pieces to keep things interesting. Make sure to create your own playlist through your favorite streaming service. To prevent any lag in streaming, make sure to check out thein your area too!
“Thriller” by Michael Jackson
Who could ignore the cult classic?
Jackson, just as he was really getting his solo career going, released this music video. It’s really a short film with a big budget. But it’s got all the classic tropes associated with horror movies. And THE Vincent Price does the voice over.
If you don’t know who Vincent Price is, then jump onand search “Vincent Price Performs The Thriller Rap Live.” After that, go and watch the original House on Haunted Hill, you won’t be disappointed.
Of course, there are plenty of tutorial videos out there on how to dance the Thriller dance. It’s a classic dance and you’ll be well prepared for any party with it.
“Time Warp” from The Rocky Horror Picture Show
It’s around this time of year that you’ll see late night showings of this cult classic. And if you ever get talked into one, be prepared for costumes and full-audience participation.
You’ll also get to see a young Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, Barry Bostwick, and Meat Loaf!
“Dragula” by Rob Zombie
Featured in The Matrix, this Rob Zombie hit is good for dance mixes, or just creeping out your friends who are more reserved.
While Rob Zombie is an acquired taste, his music is perfect for certain occasions, like Halloween. For those not familiar with him, be warned, his style is creepy. But it's just the right amount of creepy.
“Monster Mash” by Bobby ‘Boris’ Pickett & The Crypt-Kickers
A classic that everyone has probably heard by now. If not, then it’s likely someone will cock their head and say, “Oh, I’ve heard that before.”
“Monster Mash” is a more kid-friendly tune. It was originally written as a spoof of the “dance craze” type songs that were popular in the early sixties. “Monster Mash” would become part of a much larger album of other Halloween-themed dance songs.
“Phantom of the Opera- Phantom of the Opera Theme Song” by Andrew Lloyd Webber
Evil villains in masks, damsels in distress, and creepy lairs, what’s more Halloween than that?
Thanks to the 2004 movie adaptation, we get to hear Emmy Rossum and Gerard Butler perform the lead parts. Both are highly talented actors and it’s a pity the two haven’t done more musicals since then.
The film is great and engrossing. But to get the full force of Webber’s masterpiece, one must see it on stage as it was meant to be seen. Originally “The Phantom of The Opera” was a book that was adapted to a stage play. In the early 80s, Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote a new score to the stage play and from there it took off. This is why there are guitar riffs and electronic synths incorporated among the orchestration. Webber’s musical genius makes it work though.
Hearing it recorded is one thing, but to listen to the music live is an experience that’s on another plane altogether. Another bonus, if you’re lucky, is if you see a production with a master set director. For example; of the three times I’ve gotten to see the stage play, the one that stands out the most was the second time I saw it.
In the middle of the stage was a large brick wall. This cut the stage in half, but pieces of the wall would open to reveal different scenes. And when the Phantom’s theme occurred, The Phantom and Christine would walk along the top of the wall, singing as they did. Stairs would extend from the wall and they walked down to the stage below. When they reached the bottom, the *entire* wall split in two to reveal The Phantom’s lair.
Words don’t do it justice, but trust me, with a live orchestra, this was awesome to behold!
“Ghostbusters” by Ray Parker Jr.
Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, Dan Akroyd, and Ernie Hudson were the original Ghostbusters and launched thisinto common consciousness.
Although it is a comedy, I can remember the ghosts scaring me as a kid. Luckily, the comedic stylings of Murray, Ramis, and Akroyd kept me from running out of the room. As I grew in age, I caught the little in-jokes and innuendoes that I missed as a kid, and it got funnier. I also felt for Hudson’s character as he was just looking for a job and instead, got thrown into a mess of ghosts, ghouls, and cosmic abominations bent on destroying the universe.
Ray Parker Jr’s theme song has become iconic. The music video, however, not so much. But the song’s still great. And it’s sure to please the crowd when you play it during parties!
“This is Halloween” by Danny Elfman
Only Tim Burton could turn Claymation into something creepy. And this is how we get The Nightmare Before Christmas.
Composing legend Danny Elfman wrote thefor the film and even wrote the lyrics for the main song, “This is Halloween.”
Some may debate that this is really a Christmas movie, like those who debate if Die Hard is a Christmas movie or a summer blockbuster. While Die Hard is a Christmas movie, and those who argue differently are flat out wrong, The Nightmare Before Christmas straddles both. The movie can be watched from Halloween and on through Christmas.
And here’s why; it’s a story about a Halloween Spirit, Jack Skellington, who is disillusioned with scaring people. It’s just not as fun as it used to be.
Taking a walk in the woods one day, he stumbles upon a portal to take him to Christmas Town. Curious, Jack enters and sets off a chain of accidents that only he can fix. Along the way, Jack discovers the true nature of Christmas.
Halloween may be about scaring people, but Christmas is about giving. Thus, Jack decides he’ll give as much as he can to fill the hole where his heart should be.
He is, after all, a skeleton.
“For Whom The Bell Tolls” by Metallica
While heavy metal, this tune by Metallica was used for the intro to Zombieland. When I saw that, I thought, “That’s a fitting song.”
The heavy rifts punctuated by a tolling bell give the ominous feeling that something is coming for you. What it is, exactly, it’s clear. Which makes the song all the more creepy.
Vampires, zombies, werewolves, something else?
“I Put a Spell On You” by Screaming Jay Hawkins
Originally sung by Nina Simone, Screaming Jay Hawkins covers this hit with a rock twist and his growling vocals. It’s great for spooking trick-or-treaters!
“O Death” by Ralph Stanley
When I first saw the film, this tune struck me as odd. It comes about three-fourths of the way through O Brother, Where Art Thou? It's sung by a, but the vocals are provided by Ralph Stanley.
The rest of the soundtrack had been full of old-timey hymns, instruments, and lively vocals. But this was a haunting dirge, meant for a funeral.
I bought the soundtrack and listened to this track over and over again. While the rest was about finding the silver lining, this one was about death. It’s really a conversation between a dying man and death itself. The dying man is pleading for another year. Of course, death decides to come when it wants to.
For a Halloween playlist, I figured this was a good one to end on.
While there are things that are scary, they pale in comparison to the eventual end. Everyone must make their peace with death, one way or another. For those who have overcome their fear of it, they still must contend with the fact that they’re days are numbered.
Whether you decide to listen to the entire playlist or just a few, at least you’ve got a good starting point for a killer Halloween playlist.