Scaring up the perfect Halloween playlist

By Gabe Scarbrough

So, you’re going to throw a Halloween party. You’ve put up decorations, got your costume all ready and invited all of your friends, but no party can really go off without music. Here’s your guide to building the perfect Halloween playlist.

The first step is to set a mood. There’s is always a period at the beginning of every party where people are showing up and mingling but no dancing is going on. At this point in the night you just want ambient music that will set an eery atmosphere, and there are plenty of Halloween soundscape albums out there that will do just that.

Meant to be played during haunted houses, you can find these tracks on Amazon, iTunes, CD racks in party stores, and if you don’t want to spend any money, streaming on Spotify and YouTube. Find your favorite collection of ghoulish groans, screams and cauldron noises and cue it up with the volume low. People will be chatting when they first arrive and you don’t even necessarily want people to notice the music. You just want to set an appropriately ghastly atmosphere.

The next phase of the perfect Halloween party playlist marks a shift from the music being background noise to a foreground element of the event.

Pick your favorite iconic horror movie themes for this section. Still keep the volume relatively low but make sure you choose tracks that people will recognize, for instance the theme from John Carpenter’s “Halloween” or “Tubular Bells” from “The Exorcist.”

You don’t need to choose songs that people can dance to, you’re still just setting a mood, but now your guests are noticing the music and probably talking about how much they love the movie whose theme is playing. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even throw in some rock songs such as Alice Cooper’s “Welcome to my Nightmare” or whichever version of “I Put a Spell On You” that you prefer.

After a while, most people will have arrived and a decent chunk of the guests will be intoxicated. Now is the point to emphasize the “party” in your Halloween party and start breaking out the danceable Halloween tracks. I recommend started out with the “Ghostbusters” theme. It is impossible to stand still with the “Ghostbusters” theme playing.

Depending on your taste in music you can swing this section a couple of ways. There are plenty of older songs that are perfect such as “Somebody’s Watching Me,” “Hungry Like the Wolf” and, of course, “Time Warp” from “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” But if you prefer more modern music, there is an abundance of tracks to choose from as well. If you want to keep it current cue up “Monster,” either the Kanye West song or the Lady Gaga one, “Disturbia” by Rihanna or “She Wolf” by Shakira.

Now people are dancing, singing along and your party is bumping. Now it’s time to take it to the next level but you need to know your guests.

If you have a lot of friends into EDM, or electronic dance music, then you can get people moving even more by adding an artist like Figure into your playlist. Producing every genre from dubstep to electro house to drum and bass, Figure’s music is perfect for a Halloween party playlist. His “Monsters” series is club banger after horror-themed club banger. From his Halloween theme flip “Michael Myers is Dead” to the self-explanatory “The Werewolf” and “Zombies,” Figure only deals with the filthiest dance beats and the campiest audio samples. He even has a song called “This is Halloween” which samples the famous tune from “The Nightmare Before Christmas.”

If you go the EDM route you can also throw in some remixes and DJ edits. Just search for whatever Halloween song you prefer with “remix” after it on either Google or Hype Machine and you’re sure to find electronic dance versions of your favorite tunes.

The other route you can go if you’re not a fan of EDM is to ratchet up the camp instead of the energy. Throw in “The Monster Mash,” “The Purple People Eater” and “Werewolves of London” and get your guests howling along.

Last but not least there are some tracks that you are obliged to play. If you don’t play “Superstition” by Stevie Wonder then you missed out on a great opportunity to play a classic track, and if you don’t work in “A Nightmare On My Street” by DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince then you won’t get the required dose of vintage Will Smith.

And you’ve got to play “Thriller.” You just have to.

Gabe Scarbrough can be reached at [email protected]