13 Songs For A Spellbinding Halloween
By Dianca London
After endless months of waiting, it’s finally here. All Hallowmas, Samhain, Halloween. A night of fright, fun, and phantasmic glee, October 31st gives us all an excuse to embrace our inner child, dress up as ghouls or Ghostbusters, indulge in sweets, and dance the night away. Whether you’re a holiday cynic or the IRL embodiment of Emily Strange, you can’t deny the magical thrill of Halloween. Best spent in solo celebration until the witching hour, October’s end offers us much needed solace from horrors like Trump, the patriarchy, and student loan debt.
Consider this holiday playlist part of your spooky self-care. Before you meet up with friends, press play on your favorite horror film, or cut your tarot deck, treat yourself to 13 tracks filled with spooky goodness, spellbinding hooks, and memorable incantations.
Light your candles, cast your crystals, and prepare to be bewitched by sound.
1. “Buffy the Vampire Slayer Theme” — Nerf Herder
As one of the most badass characters of the ’90s and early aughts, Buffy Summers (immortalized by Sarah Michelle Gellar) will always hold a special place in our hearts. The show’s theme — composed by the pop punk outfit Nerf Herder — instantly conjures 144 episodes worth of images of the Scooby Gang saving the Sunnydale from vampires, demons, and imminent apocalypse. A former cheerleader turned accidental delinquent turned resurrected savior, Buffy literally and figuratively slayed. It’s only fitting that the theme to the series has become as legendary its heroine.
2. “Voodoo Voodoo” — LaVerne Baker
Blues and R&B singer LaVerne Baker got her start by enchanting Chicago club-goers in the ’40s before signing to Atlantic Records in ’53. A recurring chart topper during her heyday, Baker’s “Voodoo Voodoo,” which appeared as a b-side to “Hey Memphis,” tells the tale of a woman hexed by a sinister ex bent on using dark juju to keep her within his grasp. Catchy and possibly triggering, this song is hands down one of Baker’s spookiest tracks.
3. “The Cult Song” — Shannon and the Clams
As illustrated by Heaven’s Gate, the Manson Family, and the Order of the Solar Temple, joining a cult is usually (if not always) a bad idea. Sure, you’re part of a tight-knit community with your fellow believers, but cults have a way of destroying even the most resilient individuals. If you happen to end up in a cult, or a cult-adjacent crew, Oakland garage punks Shannon and the Clams’ anthem against cults is the perfect way to express that you’re just not feeling your group’s vibe anymore.
4. “Get Behind Me Satan and Push” — Billie Jo Spears
Texan starlet Billie Jo Spears first took the stage as a teen in the ’50s and continued to captivate listeners until 2011. A household name in the country music world, the guitar-slinging phenom’s 1968 single “Get Behind Me Satan and Push” is an impassioned ditty about romance and revenge. Ripe with innuendo and metaphor, Spears’ ballad, written by Ann C. Kiker and Doris Hamilton, is a fierce and and fight-ready warning that one should never underestimate the righteous rage of jilted woman.
5. “Witchy Woman” — Cher
In this live rendition of “Witchy Woman” (fused with “Honky Tonk Woman”), the goddess of pop channels her inner Maleficent and “Dark Lady” while encircled by bell-bottomed shirtless beefcakes. An endearing flashback to ’70s Cher in all her glory, “Witchy Woman” is a funked out portrait of a powerful woman whose magic is as well-known as her reputation.
6. “Spooky” — Lydia Lunch
Lydia Lunch, the founding mother of No Wave, flips the script in her 1980s interpretation of Ron Hirsch’s jazz melody. Here, the male perspective is omitted, allowing for a less predictable and more relatable telling of a gloomy romance with what would now most definitely be considered to be a fuckboi. A ghostly love song that ends in a presumably doomed engagement, “Spooky” is a cautionary tale, reminding us that sometimes, it’s best to just swipe left.
7. “Trick or Treat “— Elvira
A LOL-worthy cut by the flawlessly beehived Mistress of the Dark, “Trick or Treat” is campy and and retro in all the right ways. First performed on her cult-classic TV show Movie Macabre before being released on Elvira’s Gravest Hits, this delectably tongue-in-cheek cheeseball of a song is a pretty valid reason to “shake your skeleton to the beat.”
8. “Spellbound” — Siouxsie and the Banshees
Siouxsie Sioux’s songs aren’t merely suggested listening, they’re required. The reigning queen of goth since ’76, Siouxsie’s aesthetic has since its inception been synonymous with October 31st. Similar to “Halloween” and “Scarecrow,” Siouxie and the Banshees’ macabre lyricism will seep into your soul and possess you, which makes “Spellbound” the best prelude to a night of reading Runes in your room solo amidst swirling sage or dancing like Ian Curtis in a fog-filled goth club with friends.
Interlude: “I’m not a witch” — Stevie Nicks
Ever since Fleetwood Mac’s debut album Bella Donna, rumors about Stevie Nicks’ ties to Wicca and witchcraft have loomed in the proverbial ether. In this interview clip, Nicks expresses her love for crystals and wearing black while also stressing that she, unlike the namesake of Rhiannon, is not a witch.
9. “Seven Wonders” — Fleetwood Mac
Perhaps one of the most satisfying collisions between the real and imagined is Stevie Nicks’ American Horror Story: Coven appearance. Referred to as “the white witch” by the understatedly Stevie-obsessed Misty Day, the living legend’s onscreen performance of “Seven Wonders” is every fan’s dream come true.
10. “Carrion Flowers “— Chelsea Wolfe
Bridging the chasm between goth rock and folk, Chelsea Wolfe’s songs are undeniably dark and compelling. Inspired by Victorian mourning, mythology, and her own struggle with sleep paralysis, Wolfe’s sound is as primal as it is otherworldly. The throbbing buzz and pulse of “Carrion Flowers,” the opening track to 2015’s Abyss, is gorgeously grim, a haunting dirge that lingers in the air long after its end.
11. “Spellwork” — Austra
Like a dreamy fem-positive retelling of The Blood on Satan’s Claw, the music video for Austra’s “Spellwork” unfolds like a vivid folktale in a forest filled with fruit and women who dance amidst billowing fog. Reminiscent of Wickerman (before things got weird), “Spellwork” venerates the value of a coven, of matrilineal magic, and the matriarchy.
12. “Disturbia” — Rihanna
A horror-flick inspired dance jam with heavy S&M imagery, Rihanna’s “Disturbia” feels like a nightmare that you might not mind having once in awhile. Falling somewhere between Freakshow and Frankenstein, the 2008 single was one of the first to give listeners a glimpse at Rihanna’s inner goth. A logical forerunner to last year’s viscerally surreal “Desperado,” “Disturbia” is a fiery banger as timeless as the star who brought it to life.
13. “Finest Hour” — Cindy Valentine
Better quality if you want to scream it into your hairbrush (or broomstick)
If you haven’t watched Teen Witch yet, consider it your homework for All Hallows Eve. “Finest Hour,” by Cindy Valentine (who appears in the film as a rock ‘n roll it-girl named “Shana”) is a quintessentially ’80s power ballad built to sweep you off your feet. The track plays during the final scene of the movie as Louise, the teen witch, embraces the most powerful form of divination there is, magic of being herself. A suitable outro for an on-screen bildungsroman and for a night of real world enchantment, “Finest Hour” is a ready-made prelude to having the best Halloween of your life.