Even though classics like “Monster Mash” and “Thriller” will do the job to set the spooky season mood, sift through some less popularized but equally creepy songs ahead of Halloween.
We curated a selection of unsettling melodies and haunting lyrics from both old school and new-era songs suitable for a Halloween party or a simply autumnal walk around campus. From the Arctic Monkeys to girl in red to Andrew Lloyd Webber, immerse yourself in a broad repertoire of sinister-sounding tunes.
“onion boy” by Isaac Dunbar
Rising alt-pop artist Isaac Dunbar combines a strong, catchy backing with eerie lyrics for a spooky product that will be on repeat as you take a trip to the dance floor. Telling the story of someone close deceiving you, this song dishes heartfelt lines like “Gouging out my eyes / You made them burn and now you’ll pay the price.” Dunbar masterfully cracked the code for a Halloween pop bop with this short and sweet single.
“Four Out Of Five” by Arctic Monkeys
Throughout the Arctic Monkeys’ entire discography, frontman Alex Turner’s enchanting voice sounds like it was made purposefully to voice a seductive spirit. The off-kilter sound of the band reaches a new level of psychedelic pop on this song’s album, “Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino.” “Four Out Of Five” dives into the space-themed narrative of the album, and the ominous lyrical repetition toward the end of the song sets it apart as one of the band’s spookiest-sounding tunes.
“Somebody’s Watching Me” by Rockwell
“But why do I always feel like I’m in the Twilight Zone?” Take a trip back to 1984 and unlock the doors to the Twilight Zone as you listen to this classic R&B piece, which topped charts internationally and went viral on TikTok last year just ahead of Halloween. The song is complete with keyboards, synthesizers and stellar guest vocals from King of Pop Michael Jackson.
“Body and Mind” by girl in red
The queen of autumnal pop – known for soft indie hits like “we fell in love in october” – reaches new levels of angst in this physically chilling tune. Similarly to the majority of girl in red’s 2021 album “if i could make it go quiet,” the song contains heavy lyrics exploring her struggles with mental health, like “I’ve been chasing everything that makes me feel cold.” The lyrics are reflected through a hauntingly dark instrumental with a powerful drumbeat and a creepy melody on the keyboard that begs listeners to crank up this unsettling song.
“Personal Jesus” by Depeche Mode
This song’s inherently ominous riff and hefty drumbeat are enough to immerse you in unease. Songwriter Martin Gore said the lyrics refer to seeking forgiveness for one’s sins through a “Personal Jesus” – someone who can give you hope. Though the lyrics aren’t necessarily as spooky as a typical Halloween song, the echoing sound and rhythmic breaths amplify the thrill of the song and put the ghostly composition over the top.
“Calling All the Monsters” by China Anne McClain
As the stand-out Halloween anthem from our peak Disney Channel years, McClain, who starred in the early 2010s sitcom A.N.T. Farm, brought the thunder with this 2011 release. The electropop sensation topped Radio Disney’s Top 30 at the time, and McClain and her sisters’ band, “Thriii,” re-recorded the song last year in time for its 10-year anniversary. Spooky and catchy, with just the right amount of nostalgia-inducing auto-tune, McClain’s song ushers in the Halloween season like no other.
“I’ll Never Smile Again” by Tommy Dorsey, Frank Sinatra and The Pied Pipers
Featuring obsessively devoted lyrics and sounds sent straight out of a psychological thriller, “I’ll Never Smile Again” evokes a palpable air of creepiness. Singing “I’ll never smile again / Until I smile at you,” Dorsey and Sinatra’s leisurely melody backed up by a spooky-sounding chorus situates this oldie as an especially sinister choice for the selection. Even while listening on Spotify, the 1940 song sounds like you’re hearing it straight off an old-timey record player and might prompt you to double check that you locked your door before you go to sleep this evening.
“Wires” by The Neighborhood
Exploring the struggles of navigating the music industry, this eerie song from The Neighborhood dives into the power that money and success can hold on a person. The menacing piano backing sets up nightmarish lyrics like “When he talks I hear his ghosts.” This emotional and cautionary tale adds an uneasy-yet-soulful feel to our selection.
“Cannibal” by Tally Hall
Likely at the top of Armie Hammer’s Halloween playlist, “Cannibal” details the wounds that a romantic partner has left through the metaphor of cannibalism. Sparing no gory imagery, the band sings “She rips out my bones just like I’m an animal / And right when I’m feeling like my blood is drained / She calls it a game.” Although the song carries a surprisingly cheery and upbeat tune, the vivid lyrics up the bone-chilling feels of this piece.
“Halloween” by Phoebe Bridgers
The playlist takes a slower turn once you hear the first soft guitar strums of Bridgers’ devastatingly divine “Halloween.” Her delicate and sorrowful tone mirrors her desperate lyrics as she tries to save a relationship by pretending to be something she’s not, singing “It’s Halloween, and we can be anything.”
“The Phantom of the Opera” by Sierra Boggess and Ramin Karimloo
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s imaginative score of his triumphant musical “The Phantom of the Opera” seamlessly blends opera and rock to craft melodies that sound as creepy as the show’s sinister plot – especially true for the titular song. As an ode to the imminent closure of Broadway’s longest-running show, the stunning vocals and blazing electric guitar on this iconic tune round out the end of the playlist.
Discover and save the full playlist here.