More than any other night of the year, Halloween is your chance to dance like you’re somebody – or something – else.
Don’t fuck it up! Turn off the lights, fill up your goblet, and whack on this spooky Spotify playlist of 20 holy Halloween classics – 10 old, 10 new.
1. Echo & The Bunnymen – The Killing Moon (1984)
‘Fate up against your will.
Through the thick and thin.
He will wait until
you give yourself to him’
‘The Killing Moon’ is a great post-punk rock record, period. The chorus above unravels with spontaneous grace, every word coming naturally and serving a purpose. Okay, purpose might be too active a word. The song’s presiding feeling is one of resignation – an acceptance of Fate’s master plan.
At the story’s centre is a romance doomed to end in at least one death. But the plot beats are signposted by gothic symbolism that keep things just on the right side of ghoulish fun. A serious piece of music then, but one that evokes the morbidity of the Halloween season as organically as a bloodied butcher knife.
2. Lady Gaga – Bad Romance (2009)
Catchy monster sounds? Yas! Nightmarish storytelling? Yas! Dance routine? Yaaaaass!
3. Michael Jackson – Thriller (1982)
The iconic ‘Thriller’ video opens with a disclaimer that Michael Jackson ‘in no way endorses a belief in the occult‘. Scoff as we might of the quaintness of the message – perhaps it was necessary. After all, no one in pop culture icon before or since has made the supernatural look more fun.
4. Britney Spears – Freakshow (2007)
Britney has never been afraid to experiment, sprinkling this slut-dropper with menacing dubstep wobbles way back in ‘07.
5. Bobby Boris Pickett – The Monster Mash (1962)
My friends and I sang the entirety of ‘The Monster Mash’ at our school talent show when we were 16 – with absolutely no backing track. That’s how iconic it is.
6. OutKast featuring Kelis – Dracula’s Wedding (2003)
Even when playing vampires sentenced an eternity together, Kelis and André 3000 are a match made in heaven.
7. Grace Jones – I’ve Seen That Face Before (Libertango) (1981)
Fusing a classic Argentine tango with reggae arrangements, this is a Frankenstein’s Monster of a song. But as usual, it’s Miss Grace Jones – singing with suicidal detachment – who brings the spook.
8. Childish Gambino – Boogieman (2016)
Like much of Donald Glover’s “Awaken, My Love!” LP, ‘Boogieman’ uses horror clichés to allude to racial tension in America: ‘But if he’s scared of me / How can we be free?’
9. Cerrone – Supernature (1977)
TL;DR ‘Donna Summer does “The Monster Mash”’.
10. Katy Perry – Dark Horse (2014)
Shielded by walls of trap-for-kidz – before the real thing dominated radio – Katy plays the role of sexy sorcerer with aplomb.
11. Warren Zevon – Werewolves of London (1978)
Sharp imagery – ‘Saw a werewolf with a Chinese menu in his hand’ – and a howl-along chorus. What’s not to love?
12. Rihanna – Disturbia (2008)
There is a grim irony in this four-on-the-floor headfuck being co-written by Rihanna’s own Big Bad, Chris Brown.
13. Talking Heads – Psycho Killer (1973)
It’s almost unfair that we associate one music’s finest basslines with David Byrne’s paean to the murderous mind. But on an eerie October evening, the pairing emulsifies splendidly.
14. Peaches – Trick or Treat (2009)
A sleazy synthpop romp – with a lesson Michael Myers and his sexually active prey can agree on: ‘Never go to bed without a piece of raw meat.’
15. Rockwell – Somebody’s Watching Me (1984)
Rockwell owes a debt to Michael Jackson’s generous ‘backing vocals’ (he does the unshakeable hook), but the one-hit-wonder’s own paranoid rants are worth the price of entry alone.
16. Shakira – She Wolf (2009)
The lycanthropic ‘ah-woos’ may be fabulously half-hearted, but the Columbian superstar’s sexual liberation is anything but.
17. Screamin’ Jay Hawkins – I Put A Spell On You (1956)
The legendary blues singer claims not to remember recording ‘I Put A Spell On You’. How fitting that he wails like a man possessed.
18. Travis Scott featuring Kendrick Lamar – Goosebumps (2017)
The goosebumps in question are romantic ones, but the horror-movie atmospherics still get under the skin.
19. The Rolling Stones – Sympathy For the Devil (1974)
Going solely by its lively groove, you could almost forget this is a darkly comic celebration of Satan’s role in historical atrocities. A devilish sleight of (red right) hand that makes it perfect for a Halloween party playlist.
20. Kanye West, Jay-Z and Nicki Minaj – Monster (2010)
On a career-defining verse, Nicki swaps alter egos with the ferocity of Linda Blair in The Exorcist. But by the end, the Minaj brand is as recognisable as any Halloween costume.