If you threw a Halloween party that didn’t have a badass playlist, did you really throw a Halloween party? The ORANGE Music staff doesn’t think so. To help you out, we present our top picks for a haunted soiree that’s so devilishly fun, it’ll wake the dead. Spoiler alert: “Monster Mash” is noticeably absent.
Britny: “Maneater” — Blue Eyed Blondes
I’ve been obsessed with this song from the very first time I heard it on a creepy playlist months ago, because I live my life like every day is Halloween. It’s a talky, folksy jam that would be at home on a blues or even bluegrass list, but also totally fits for Halloween because it’s about murder. The song’s story sucks listeners in and slowly builds in suspense until it reaches a fantastic climax, totally making it worth the listener’s while. It also sounds like Blue Eyed Blondes are singing from the middle of a run-down barn in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by candles and bathed in shadows. Gotta love Southern Gothic.
Dev: “In The Room Where You Sleep” — Dead Man’s Bones
Even if it’s too creepy to be on a normal person’s year-long camping soundtrack, Dead Man’s Bones’ entire self-titled album should at least have a home on your Halloween party playlist. Actors Zach Shields and Ryan Gosling (he’s more than just a pretty face, apparently) turn their shared passion for the paranormal into a theatrical, atmospheric masterpiece. As if the lyrics aren’t beautifully chilling enough (“I saw something sitting on your bed, I saw something touching your head, in the room where you sleep”), Shields’ and Gosling’s voices fit perfectly with the Silverlake Conservatory of Music’s children’s choir. (There’s just something about children singing that makes my neck hairs stand up straight.)
You may have heard this particular song if you’ve seen “The Conjuring,” since it fits perfectly into the 1970s setting of the vintage-inspired horror film. What I love most about the whole album is that, while wonderfully haunting, the music is more charming than disturbing. Adding to the charm is that Shields and Gosling purposefully recorded all of the tracks in fewer than three takes, allowing their imperfections to lend to the album’s eerie character. The spooky doo-wop nature of every song makes me want to waltz in a room of ghosts. The title track, “Dead Man’s Bones,” could make skeletons rise from their graves, and “My Body Is A Zombie For You” could warm the even the most rotten hearts of the deceased.
Lauren: “Destroy” — Wavves ft. Fucked Up
Between the opening scream and the chanting chorus, this song should freak you out a little bit. If not, then just check out the video. But after you and your friends get over the initial shock, the guitar hook will have you jumping and dancing around like a lunatic. You may even find yourself mindlessly chanting, “Destroy” in a cultish stupor as you pump your body with alcohol and candy. It’s Halloween, so go ahead and make this song your anthem. Destroy yourself and your surroundings as if “the world is ending,” and wake up the next morning wondering what the hell you were thinking.
Tess: “Eleanor Rigby” — The Beatles
The first time that I can fully remember listening to this song was on a cross-country drive from Virginia to Texas when I was about five. We always listened to either the Beach Boys or The Beatles in the car, and when this particular song came on, my sister would always squeal and say something like, “This song is so creepy!” At the time, the only thing I could make out from the lyrics was that someone in this song kept their face in a jar by a door, so I was equally creeped out. To this day, whenever I hear this song I just imagine a really old, frightening man shoveling graves in a cemetery. The entire tone of the song gives you goosebumps — which is exactly what you want on Halloween, right?
Maria: “This Is Halloween” from “The Nightmare Before Christmas”
Growing up, I was terrified of anything and everything Halloween. Every movie, festival and event involving people dressed up as zombies and chasing people was a complete turnoff. I couldn’t even watch The Backstreet Boys’ “Everybody” video because the costumes creeped me out too much. However, one thing managed not to scare me to death — “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” Tim Burton’s genius film became an obsession and tradition for me at a very young age. To this day, I watch my family’s scratched VHS copy every Halloween. “This Is Halloween” is the only Halloween song I play every October, and you can find me singing every lyric at every Halloween party (and yes, that includes all of the voice changes).
Quinton: “Thriller” — Michael Jackson
When did it become cliché to like undeniable classics? If I say anything about Michael Jackson to anyone nowadays, I receive immediate backlash. Too safe, too easy or some other excuse for why I can’t enjoy something. Michael Jackson is the most important and influential artist of all time. Period. If, at the age of seven, you weren’t emulating dance moves at the family reunion, then you had already begun your losing streak.
“Thriller” is the brightest (or darkest) example of MJ’s talent. My younger self had nightmares about the 13-minute short film. My older self has finally grasped the story and lyrics. The coupling of horror and music has never been done better. The zombies dance, and it isn’t corny. It’s deemed as the “most influential pop video of all time” and is the only music video that sits on the shelves of the Library of Congress. It was even too scary for Michael, who later issued an apology after frightening half of the known world.
Honestly, I only like Halloween for the start of the fall season and excessive amount of “Thriller” YouTube plays I get to rack up. So, if you want to find me at your pathetic excuse for a Halloween party, you better have “Thriller” on your playlist. Otherwise, I’m just taking the candy corn, the drinks and going home.
Jenna: “Pretty Visitors” — Arctic Monkeys
As much as I love Arctic Monkeys, this song creeps me out to no end. There is something uncanny about the lyrics: “All the pretty visitors came and waved their arms, and cast the shadow of a snake pit on the wall.” The opening organ bars set the tone of the song before the waves of raw guitars and frenzied drums break and crash, with Alex Turner’s menacing lyrics floating over the music. It still has that classic Arctic Monkeys rock sound, but the eerie, hollow organ gives it a creepy edge, making it the perfect spooky song for Halloween.
Sam: “Bewitched” — Candlemass
Halloween is a time to explore the darker side of our society’s collective imagination. Although many people have long been more concerned with skimpy outfits and hedonistic activities, the true meaning of Halloween — well, at least to me — is spooky imagery and experiences. Swedish epic doom metallers, Candlemass, epitomize this Halloween vibe on their track “Bewitched” for multiple reasons. When I hear the lyrics, “I will play for you this wicked melody, its magic will reach for your soul,” shivers run down my spine. This magic really does grab you and take you to a faraway, fantastical landscape populated by skeletons and wizards — if only for a moment. Backed by a crescendo of wailing, minor vocal harmonies and epic, symphonic keys alongside huge guitars, Candlemass really gets me in the Halloween mood. Consider me spooked.
Bryan: “Dig Up Her Bones” — The Misfits
I know what you hardcore Misfits fans (do they even exist in 2014?) are thinking: “HOW could he possibly pick a Michale Graves song over a Glenn Danzig song?!” I will grant you the concession that the Danzig era was by far a more authentic, exciting and culturally significant time in the horror rockers’ history. Unfortunately, those songs also sound like they were recorded in a crypt, and while that may sound ideal for a chilling Halloween playlist, nothing kills my buzz quicker than bad production value. Instead, I’ll opt for this beefier cut from the best album of the Misfits’ second wind, 1997’s “American Psycho.” Featuring some delightfully campy wolf howl sound effects, muscular power chord riffing and the most undeniably catchy chorus this side of the cemetery, the song is guaranteed to pique listeners’ interest, even if their ears are still virgin to the cheap thrills and creepy schlock that the Misfits have been serving up for nearly four decades. Let’s not forget the lyrics: “And death climbs up the steps one by one to give you the rose that’s been burnt by her son.” Yeah, I think this makes the cut in the spooky department.