Some people get excited about red cups at Starbucks. Others can’t wait to queue up holiday music on their iPod (UGH!) or go Black Friday shopping at midnight on Thanksgiving.
I live for pumpkin guts, costumes, obscene amounts of candy and turning my parents’ home and backyard into a spooky, candle-lit haunted house for my annual Halloweenie Roast every October.
I spent a number of years longing for a cool Halloween party to attend when I lived in Oklahoma from 2004-09. Though I’d gather with a couple friends for various activities (old school scary movie night, taking kiddos trick-or-treating) it never felt right, never felt like Halloween to me. So when I moved back to Texas in 2009, I decided to start my own party – Halloweenie Roast (named by my mother, credit where credit is due) was born! I invite my friends over to roast hot dogs over our fire pit, drink my lethal Witch’s Brews and hang out. It’s easily my favorite night of the year.
After picking a Witches’ Brew, my next most time-consuming task is creating the perfect playlist for the theme. Let me be the first to say I have not mastered this fine art – and I’m not sure I ever will. There’s a certain finesse that comes with crafting the perfect playlist: a careful balance of tempo, lyrics and familiarity. I’m no playlist master, but when it comes to Halloween party playlists here’s a few key characteristics I look for in the perfect song.
Over the years, I’ve found myself becoming incredibly bored with the slow songs on my master Halloween playlist – which I’ll be giving you access to soon! Creepy though the slow songs might be, more often than not I found myself hitting “next” – if I don’t want to listen to it, I doubt my party guests do either.
Over the last few years, I’ve taken a new approach to my playlist and kept only songs that were mid-tempo or faster. It plays into that restaurant logic where they play faster music during peak hours to get people in and out quickly – the music subconsciously speeds up the pace of your eating. I’m not trying to hurry my friends through the night, but I figure they want to come, hang out and have fun, not sit around my backyard listening to depressing-as-hell music just because it sounds kinda creepy.
Upbeat music is the best way to set that tone for the night. I suppose it’s all in what type of vibe you’re trying to achieve at your party, but given that mine basically equates to a backyard barbecue in the fall, upbeat tunes fit best.
A pop/rock lover to my core, I’ve got to have some melody in my Halloween playlist. Loud and angry seems to be most people’s qualifiers for good Halloween music. It’s all fine and well to throw on your favorite hardcore/grindcore/whatevercore band you love and let them do the work, but this music is simply not my wheelhouse and I don’t enjoy it so it gets shown to the door.
Try as I might to make the house and backyard look haunted, I don’t rely on my music to jar the senses the way a true haunted house would. Working hand in hand with tempo, a little bit of melody helps create the tone of my evening which leads me to…
Melody doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice the creepy/scary quality of music in your playlist. A lot of the songs, like Sugarloaf’s “Green-Eyed Lady” or Jace Everett’s “Bad Things”, on my list are there simply because of their killer bass lines. There’s something about a good, thumping bass that feels primal, gets inside your head and makes you feel a little haunted, on edge. While I don’t exclusively look for songs with good bass, I’ve noticed this is a pretty common characteristic in my top picks – something worth considering for your list.
Okay, this is a big one: no sticking songs on the list just because they have “vampire” or “ghost” in the song title or lyrics. No exceptions.
I’ve always been a lyric girl, so I make it a point to actually listen to the songs I put on my Halloween playlist and make sure they help achieve the overall Halloween vibe I’m trying to create. Your friends might not be sitting there, ears pressed to the speaker to catch every line, but the occasional creepy lyric here and there they do catch will go a long way in making the evening memorable.
Keep the Classics
Look, I’ll rail against mainstream music and its lack of quality as fast as the next music snob…but there’s a reason certain songs like “Thriller” get stuck on playlist after playlist at Halloween. We have a collective nostalgia for certain songs being associated with certain things, and Halloween music is no exception.
So do your friends a favor. Give up your snobbery for one night, and put the classics on your playlist. You can still put your obscure Norwegian band only you love on there too, and you know what? If you warm a friend’s heart with a nostalgic song, you’re a lot more likely to catch their ear with something they don’t know.
What are your keys to a perfectly ghoulish Halloween playlist?
This list is not steadfast and true of every last song on my playlist, but each song meets at least 2-3 of these requirements. These are the things I look for in the perfect song to add to my master playlist, but I’d love to hear from you – what do you think makes a perfect ghoulish tune for your Halloween playlist?
This post originally appeared on my music blog, thegoodgroupie.com.
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