The Wannabes’ Definitive Halloween Playlist

Every Halloween season, I get into a particularly dark musical mood. Angry dance music, emo rock opera albums, and sultry blues all wind up in the October musical rotation. As such, each year, I create Halloween-themed playlists to celebrate the pagan Christian candy-worshipping holiday. Previous iterations of my curated Halloween playlists have included “AAAAH! Halloween,” “All Hallow BEATS,” and “BOO: Halloween Tunes.” This year’s playlist, “The Wannabes’ HalloBEAT,” is especially crafted to move through the nuanced feelings of Halloween from supernaturally murderous to spookily rapturous to unfathomably absurd.

The Wannabes’ HalloBEAT:

Every Halloween playlist requires certain classics new and old to truly be considered of the All Hallows’ Eve milieu. But some Halloween-esque tunes are so cliche, so tiresome, that they should be removed from the modern lexicon.

Must haves:

Thriller (Michael Jackson)

Halloween without “Thriller” is like Christmas without Santa Claus—it may not be a part of the origins of the holiday but it might as well be now. This is one of the best pop songs of all time, let alone one of the best Halloween songs. “Darkness falls across the land,” and we welcome the “evil of the thriller” every year.

Heads Will Roll (Yeah Yeah Yeahs)

The Karen O-led Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ early hit plays like a modern “Thriller” with grooves to dance your butt (or head!) off and a creepy/cool music video. Normally “reimagings” and “modern inspirations” of classics don’t work, but “Heads Will Roll” definitely does.

I Put a Spell on You (Screamin’ Jay Hawkins)

While I love love love the Nina Simone cover (not to mention the Hocus Pocus riff), the original has a power and menace that cannot be duplicated. I’m still surprised when someone hasn’t heard the original “I Put a Spell on You,” as it should be a part of every American music curriculum ever. It’s that prolific and that good.

No, we’re done with these:

Thriller/Heads Will Roll (Glee Cast)

The mashup of “Thriller” and “Heads Will Roll” is a perfect example of two positive cancelling each other out to become inert. (That’s how science works, right?) Anyway, despite mashups often being the source of innovation and joy (I love mashups), this one doesn’t resonate well. Plus, I’m so over any and all singing by the bland Glee chorus.

Monster Mash (Bobby “Boris” Pickett)

Oh but Monster Mash is a classic! No. But it’s great for kids on Halloween! Nope. But- We’re done. Michael Jackson gave us “Thriller.” We don’t need “Monster Mash” anymore.

They’re Coming to Take Me Away, Ha Haaa! (Napoleon XIV)

In middle school my weird friends (don’t worry, we’re still friends) and I would recite this song because apparently that’s what weird adolescent kids do. This song was cheesy and not very good back in the ’60s. It still is. Except for weird adolescent kids. They can continue to listen (and grow out of) it.

What are your go-to Halloween tunes to get you in the holiday spirit? Let us know in the comments!



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