Halloween Songs 2019
My aunt loves these Halloween songs. One time she wrote her own Halloween song. It was bad.
Thriller" by Michael Jackson
"I'm not like other guys," Michael tells his girl at the beginning of the greatest video ever made, from the greatest album ever made. Did we realize how prescient that statement would be in 1982? So much of "Thriller" shouldn't work—MJ is a doll, 71-year-old Vincent Price raps, it's six minutes long. But together it's ballsy genius, riding on an insistent, funky Minimoog bassline. "I wish to stress that this film in no way endorses a belief in the occult," Jackson wrote in the video. No, but the Elephant Man bones and chimp did.
“Ghostbusters” by Ray Parker Jr.
There are at least two Time Out New York editors who believe that the part of this 1984 classic where Parker ecstatically croons, “Bustin’ makes me feel good!” is the single-greatest piece of music ever recorded (and they willfight you over this opinion). Huey Lewis actually sued Parker over the song’s similarity to his “I Want a New Drug,” probably because he was jealous of how much better “Ghostbusters” is.
"I Put a Spell on You" by Screamin' Jay Hawkins
WOW. Just wow. If the spooky sax and creepy bassline doesn't give you goosebumps at the start of this 1956 stone-cold classic, then Screamin' Jay's soul-shouting and maniacal laughter sure as hell will. Better yet is the story behind the song: It started out as an elegant blues number, then the producer brought in ribs and chicken, and, says Hawkins, "got everyone drunk, and we came out with this weird version…I found out I could do more destroying a song and screaming it to death." And why not? Happy, weird, sexy Halloween, everyone!
“Werewolves of London” by Warren Zevon
Somewhere between Brecht and Weill’s “Mack the Knife” and Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho lies Warren Zevon’s silly-witty 1978 novelty hit about everyday monsters. Over an irresistible three-chord piano riff, Zevon’s gift for dark comedy expresses itself in lyrics that swipe their claws slyly at the banality of horror—“I saw a werewolf drinking a piña colada at Trader Vic's / And his hair was perfect”—but the droll wolf-call refrain (“a-hooooooooo!”) makes you want to give up and join the pack.
“Season of the Witch” by Donovan
Donovan never explains quite what he means by a “season of the witch” in this five-minute foray into ominous psychedelia, from the British singer-songwriter’s 1966 album, Sunshine Superman. But a shiver of paranoia runs through the song’s depiction of identity flux (“so many different people to be”) in a world gone topsy-turvy (“Beatniks are out to make it rich”), and the guitar part—played by a pre-Zeppelin Jimmy Page—adds welcome notes of acid.
"Ghost Town" by the Specials
Okay, so technically this song is about unemployment, inner-city violence and urban decay, not decaying flesh. But the 1981 hit, released at the height of the U.K.'s recession riots, still creeps us out in the very best way, with eerie flute solos, ominous lyrics and maniacal, childlike la-la-las—plus some pretty spooky synth fades.
"Pet Sematary" by the Ramones
Hard to believe the original Ramones are all dead. By 1989, the punks' career was nearly six feet under. But this toe-tapping title track from a hit horror film, a bite-sized Snickers with a metal shard inside, put the New Yawkers back on MTV, introducing a new generation to the leather-wrapped Phil Spector fanatics who looked like motorcycle zombies. If only Stephen King's resurrecting graveyard were real—we miss these buffoons.
"Somebody's Watching Me" by Rockwell
If Rockwell (real name Kenneth Gordy, son of Motown founder Berry) shivered at Big Brother's glare in 1984, one can only imagine what he'd make of the Internet age, where the government, news media and rogue hackers are all equally likely to be keeping tabs on you. The "Thriller"-esque hook comes courtesy of Rockwell's buddy Michael Jackson, a good dude to have on speed-dial, though I'm not sure how much help he'd be if you're looking for someone to check for monsters in the closet.
“Monster Mash” by Bobby “Boris” Pickett
The perennial holiday favorite/Halloween party-atmosphere–killer (delete as appropriate) was released in 1962, and has been clawing its way out of the grave every year since. It’s been covered by maybe the most eclectic group of bands of any song ever (the Beach Boys, Bruce Springsteen, Vincent Price, Alvin and the Chipmunks, the Smashing Pumpkins and The Misfits, to name but a few), but the moldy old original is still the preferred classic.
“Monster” by Kanye West
’Ye pulled out all the stops on this 2010 track: He’s got guest vocals from Jay Z, Nicki Minaj, Rick Ross and Bon Iver (because why not?). The gang name-checks nightmarish images at every turn—blood suckers, goblins, the Bride of Chucky—and dishes out a healthy helping of Haterade to critics and skeptics, but it’s the funky groove and sick rhymes that’ll raise the goosebumps (in a good way). Some of us (not naming names) may even like to pretend we’re Nicki Minaj sometimes and spit the Harajuku Barbie’s verse (the best one of the bunch) in the privacy of our apartment.