Editor’s Note: After much consideration of feedback from you, dear readers, we have concluded that “Monster Mash” is indeed a graveyard smash. We regret this error.
Let’s get one thing straight: Christmas music is good, sure. We know this. But the mainstream holiday music canon is far too oversaturated with its cookie-cutter visions of dancing sugar plums and roasted chestnuts and other outdated traditions of yesteryear. In the Gregorian Calender scheme of things, we need something to get us through those less-than-wholesome months. We need more Halloween music. Yes, you read that right: Halloween songs exist. And they’re good. We’ve compiled enough of them to prove that these aren’t just jack-o-lantern-adjacent jams. They’re tunes that will get you and your friends rising from the dead and bobbing your heads like the apples you can’t seem to nab with your teeth alone. So, mix up some red punch and get on your favorite fake-blood-friendly ‘fit. We’ve cooked up a caldron full of certified hits: from the immortal classics to buried gems of today.
Bobby Pickett — “Monster Mash”
Because it’s a graveyard smash.
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs — “Heads Will Roll – A-Trak Remix”
Because the Project X soundtrack is an ominous presence that still haunts party playlists to this day. And this Frankenstein revival of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ original hit takes the cake for most gruesome party ever.
Rihanna — “Distrubia”
Because only Rihanna could make, “bum, bum, bee-dum, bum-bum, bee-dum-bum” sound like an ancient spell to cast you into a night of darkness.
Rocky Horror Picture Show — “Time Warp”
Because if you’re not the kind of person to attend the midnight showing of Rocky Horror Picture Show every Halloween, it’s at least in good practice to pour one out for their dedication at your party.
Nelly Furtado — “Maneater”
Because Nelly Furtado literally gave us a symptom-by-symptom guide to recognizing man eaters in case of a zombie apocalypse. They make you work hard, make you spend hard, and look nothing like the Walking Dead extras.
Stevie Wonder — “Superstition”
Because just the bassline of this classic alone will make you look like you’re cursed to dance for eternity.
MGMT — “Little Dark Age”
Because a lot of MGMT sounds like it could be the background music for a haunted house video game, but this one especially does.
Rockwell — “Somebody’s Watching Me”
Because if the paranoia of feeling like you’re constantly being followed doesn’t plague your psyche, then the recurring memory of the googly-eyed money stack from the “Somebody’s Watching Me” Geico commercials has to.
Radiohead — “Creep”
Because the haunting guitar melody and Thom Yorke’s vocals are as sincere as they are unsettling.
Bow Wow — “I Want Candy”
Because adult Halloween doesn’t have to mean switching the sweets for spirits. Why not both?
Smashing Pumpkins — “Monster Mash”
Because it’s a graveyard smash.
Billie Eilish – “bury a friend”
Because Billie Eilish’s dark, horror pop, has become one of the most fully realized, debut personas in recent years. And bury a friend is a dark and poignant song that blurs the line between fear and an absolute banger.
Justin Timberlake – “Cry Me a River”
Because Justin Timberlake’s massive break up hit strikes that strange middle ground between certified bop and haunting melody. That opening voice alone is worth inclusion on the list.
Luniz ft. Michael Marshall – “I Got 5 On It”
Because if you have seen Us once, then this remix of Luniz’s hit from the ’90s will make you super uncomfortable. Keep an eye out for red jumpsuited lookalikes.
Taylor Swift – “Haunted”
Because on the absolute poppiest side of the fence, Taylor Swift’s “Haunted” is an orchestra-filled, dramatic, drum-heavy break up anthem that lingers on the edge of being unhinged.
Shakira – “She Wolf”
Because Shakira’s weird world of werewolf transformations is a necessary addition to any Halloween playlist. Bonus points for performing in what can only be described as a bedazzled interior of a cave?
The Police – “Every Breath You Take”
Because it sounds very innocuous until you really listen to the words. Is it probably well-intentioned? Sure. Does it sound like a big creeper song? Also sure.
Ava Max – “Sweet But Psycho”
Because Ava Max’s 2019 pop hit is equal parts catchy and a cautionary tale. Sweet, but psycho is a red flag.
David Bowie – “Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)”
Because we’d follow David Bowie down a haunted path any day.
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross – “John Carpenter’s Halloween”
Because Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor’s movie score genius is best applied to one of the greatest horror themes of all time.
Kim Petras feat. Elvira, Mistress of the Dark – “Turn Off the Light”
Because Halloween should also be fun and horny.
Thom Yorke – “Suspirium”
Because Radiohead’s Thom Yorke making the score for a Luca Guadagnino horror film is the best Halloween gift ever.
Julee Cruise – “Falling”
Because few songs conjure fear and paranoia better than the theme for David Lynch’s Twin Peaks.
Goblin – “Suspiria”
Because prog-rockers Goblin made the theme to Dario Argento’s Suspiria spooky and groovy.
Lana Del Rey – “Ultraviolence”
Because Lana is great at making creepy sound beautiful.
Fleetwood Mac – “Sisters of the Moon”
Because Stevie Nicks can make anyone feel a little witchy.
Geto Boys – “Chuckie”
Because Chuckie deserves his hip-hop cred.
Marianne Faithfull – “Witches’ Song”
Because you need a song to sing along to with your coven.
Eminem – “Buffalo Bill”
Because of course Eminem is inspired by The Silence of the Lambs killer.
Huey Lewis & the News – “Hip To Be Square”
Busta Rhymes – “Gimme Some More”
Because this actually samples the theme from Psycho.
Nina Simone – “I Put a Spell on You”
Because no one could put as much heart and soul into a love spell quite like Nina Simone.
The Rolling Stones – “Sympathy for the Devil”
Because of all the songs written about Satan, this one packs the biggest punch—even 50 years later.
AC/DC – “Who Made Who”
Because it’s the best part of Stephen King’s Maximum Overdrive.
Kate Bush – “Hounds of Love”
Because the opening line actually comes from one of Kate Bush’s favorite horror movies, Night of the Demon.
Kanye West – “Monster”
Because Kanye West in 2019 is scarier than any horror movie.
Billy Idol – “Eyes Without a Face”
Because it’s inspired by the classic French horror movie of the same name—and lives up its namesake.
Annie Lennox – “Love Song for a Vampire”
Because who knows? Maybe you’ll slow dance with Dracula at a Halloween party this year.
Q Lazzarus – “Goodbye Horses”
Because it’s impossible to hear this song and not think of the Buffalo Bill scene in Silence of the Lambs.
Blondie – “Rapture”
Because Debbie Harry and Co. were mixing together new wave and hip-hop in a song about clubbing with aliens way back in ’81.
Tyler, the Creator – “Yonkers”
Because few people can create hip-hop as menacing as Tyler, the Creator. And if you throw this stunning music video on at your party, you’re bound to freak out the guests.
Ramones – “Pet Sematary”
Because while the guitars are tuned to the eighties, this is downright timeless: “I don’t want to be buried/in a Pet Sematary / I don’t want to live my life again.” Bonus factoid: The Ramones are name-checked in the Stephen King book and were subsequently commissioned to pen the film version’s theme song.
Talking Heads – “Psycho Killer”
Because the oversized David Byrne suit is an underrated Halloween costume.
Ryan Adams – “Halloweenhead”
Because Halloween dutifully stands in for the horrors of addiction on what might just be the second song we know about trick-or-treating in a red-light district.
Kate Bush — “Get Out of My House”
Because Kate Bush has actually described this song as her own Shining.
Warren Zevon – “Werewolves of London”
Because as tempting as it is to include the Grateful Dead howling live on Halloween about this hairy, hairy Chow Mein-eating man, nothing quite touches the way Zevon unfurls the bit about Lon Chaney, Jr. walking with the Queen.
Willie Nelson – “Gravedigger”
Dave Matthews wrote it, but Willie, 74 at the time of recording, sells it.
Fiona Apple – “Werewolf”
Because while, admittedly, the “werewolf” in the title is too fleeting for this to be a true Halloween song, the way she uses a “full moon” reference to take some of the blame off a lover that left her for dead is a clever little slice of songwriting nonetheless.
The Flaming Lips – “Halloween on the Barbary Coast”
Because it’s the only song we know about trick-or-treating in a red-light district. And because we never noticed how much Wayne Coyne could sound like Perry Farrell.
Lyle Lovett – “Friend of the Devil”
Because who knew the devil wants your $20 bill? And because this is the definitive version of one of the best tributes to Satan ever.
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