Everyone knows you can’t have a properly chilling Halloween party without a playlist that expertly balances creepiness with actual bangers (because no one really wants to hear “Monster Mash” or “Time Warp”). This year, make sure you don’t forget to add these sometimes-overlooked horror anthems to your streaming platform of choice.
Rockwell – “Somebody’s Watching Me”
Surefire way to become a Halloween playlist essential: heavily feature a pipe organ. Surefire way to craft a pop hit: have Michael Jackson sing back-up. The son of Motown CEO Berry Gordy, Rockwell (aka Kennedy William Gordy) secured his recording contract without his father’s knowledge to avoid any charges of nepotism — and got his childhood friend MJ to contribute to his breakout single.
Beyoncé – Haunted
At this point, Beyoncé’s got a perfect song for every holiday/festivity/celebration/religious observance, and Halloween is no exception: 2013’s “Haunted,” from her self-titled fifth album, hits all the spooky notes you need for a premium Samhain song.
Fat Boys – “Are You Ready For Freddy?”
If your playlist only has room for one Freddy Kreuger-based 80’s party rap jam, make it this one. After all, that other one doesn’t have Robert Eglund actually rapping in character as Freddy.
Kanye West – “Monster”
Arguably the standout from the (still) standout hip-hop album of the 2010s, “Monster” made Nicki Minaj’s career as much as it made the rest of us wear our repeat buttons. Besides being a fire track to drop no matter what the season, though, the spook-to-bar ratio in “Monster” is off the (meat)hook. On the song, zombies, vampires, devils, the Bride of Chucky, and Sasquatch all get name-checked. No wonder, “Monster” is a clear upgrade from “Monster Mash.”
Lady Gaga – “Bloody Mary”
Sure, we could’ve gone with Gaga’s own “Monster,” but this Born This Way single is the superior track, and the creepy video just cements its status as the Gaga Halloween staple.
Little Mix – “Black Magic”
Sonically, “Black Magic” might not be the most horrifying song on this list, but you can’t have a complete Halloween playlist without a breezy, ’80’s-influenced pop tune about witches and potions.
The Cranberries – “Zombie”
Just so long as everyone attending your party agrees to pretend for one night that “Zombie” is about literal zombies and not, you know, ethno-nationalist violence in Ireland.
Natalia Kills – “Zombie”
On the other hand, I think this one IS about a literal zombie, so we’re good.
The Ramones – “Pet Sematary”
“Pet Sematary” was originally written for the 1989 Stephen King movie adaptation, and marked a fairly large departure from the band’s signature sound — so much so that Dee Dee reportedly had to help Johnny out when it came to playing the guitar parts.
Talking Heads – “Psycho Killer”
The Talking Heads’ first hit remains their most morbid, and one of their most killer. In the liner notes to Once in a Lifetime: The Best of the Talking Heads David Byrne describes his thought process behind the song, “When I started writing this (I got help later), I imagined Alice Cooper doing a Randy Newman-type ballad. Both the Joker and Hannibal Lecter were much more fascinating than the good guys. Everybody sort of roots for the bad guys in movies,” he explained.
Missy Elliott – “Get Your Freak On”
Leave it to Timbaland to turn tabla drums and other bhangra elements into an eerie (and impossibly catchy) dance anthem. If the original version of “Get Your Freak On” still isn’t unsettling enough for you, though, there’s always The Eels’ version.
Destiny’s Child – “Bills, Bills, Bills”
Because there’s nothing scarier than real life.
Rob Zombie – “Dragula”
Sadly, “Dragula” is still the only song about a devil car from hell (at least, I think so), and that alone means it has to be included on every Halloween playlist in existence. Kind of like:
Michael Jackson – “Thriller”
It’s legally mandated somewhere that this is on every single Halloween song list, and this one is no exception. “Thriller” is still the king of the graveyard when it comes to horror-pop anthems , and it’s a testament to the song’s perfection that it, like a vampire, never gets old.