No spooky season is complete without a killer playlist, and every killer playlist needs some awesome covers! For the first day of Blogtober, we’re counting down the greatest Halloween covers of all time – from the unbeatable to the unexpected!
The best part of October is the music.
I mean, I can’t lie, my playlists are pretty spooky all year round, and have been ever since I was a kid clutching my first copy of Kerrang! magazine. With that said, October is the one month out of the year where the rest of the world seems to catch up, and I can hear my favourite hits in every shopping centre, clothing store and charity shop around.
However, no matter how hard these store owners and managers try when creating their ultimate autumn compilations, they always seem to miss a trick. Clubs and bars are a little bit better, but even they aren’t utilising one thing to their full advantage, and it’s one thing that can take any Halloween playlist to the next level.
That’s right: I’m talking about covers.
Weird thing to say I know, but hear me out! Halloween is the one holiday where mainstream audiences are exposed to dark and creepy themes in their music, something that alternative bands have been doing expertly for decades. That means that not only are Halloween songs originally by goth and rock bands bound to skyrocket up the charts (don’t worry – I have a whole other blog post coming about those!) but songs by mainstream artists can be covered by alternative acts in order to pull out those darker themes.
Sometimes these covers are purely aesthetic, changing a song’s sound to be more in line with its creepy lyrical undertones, or just more in line with the spooky season in general. However, some covers can play with the juxtaposition between the dark instrumentation and light-hearted lyrics, which can lead to some hilarious mash-ups that work way better than they should.
So from the unintentionally hilarious to the genuinely brilliant to the surprisingly not terrible, here are the covers I make sure grace every single one of my Halloween playlists.
Think I’ve forgotten one? Let me know in the comments – and feel free to tell me what you’ll be getting up to this spooky season!
Marilyn Manson – Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of These)
There was never any question of this not being on the list. From the trippy, distorted visuals to the unearthly vocals – there’s something quietly foreboding about this version of the Eurythmics classic. Marilyn Manson might not be the terrifying cultural icon of the early 90s anymore, but watching this it’s easy to see why a whole section of society believed he would bring on the apocalypse – and why a whole generation couldn’t get enough of him anyway.
Korn – Kidnap The Sandy Claws
People can argue all they want about whether The Nightmare Before Christmas is a Halloween or Christmas movie, but for me, any time after October 1st is fair game. The original soundtrack is a classic in its own right, but there’s something hysterical about grungey nu-metal bad boys Korn taking on such a playful and childish track. They take it completely seriously, resulting in a chuggy and unrelenting rendition that is completely ridiculous but also strangely listenable. A must.
Murderdolls – White Wedding
White Wedding is a classic no matter what time of year it is, and the melodramatic, candles and lace-laden Billy Idol version is perfectly Halloween appropriate all by itself. However, if your friend group sways more Christian Death than Phantom Of The Opera, it might be worth amping up the intensity with this Murderdolls cover. The vocals are, well… quite frankly worse, but the eerie whisper screaming is definitely a guilty pleasure that might just keep you up at night.
Marilyn Manson & Rob Zombie – Helter Skelter
Speaking of unlikely covers you never would have seen coming, a Beatles song probably isn’t what you’d expect to come out of a collab between the self-declared God of Gore and the similarly humble God of Fuck. Despite that, this Rob Zombie and Marilyn Manson productions is one of the more stylistically creative covers on this list, and one of the better Beatles covers period. It’s also just as charming and almost as melodic as the original, which makes it a weirdly uplifting and danceable listen – who knew?
Sharon Needles – Every Day Is Halloween
Drag performers are the ultimate arbiters and scavengers of pop-culture, and when it comes to Halloween, Sharon Needles is the undisputed queen. Therefore it’s not surprising that her contribution to the spooky season is faultless, even if her pick is more obscure than you might expect. This Ministry cover is mournful, introspective and raw, and maybe the most emotional and honest track on this list. I can’t lie, it’s a little bit of a downer – especially if like me you’re a goth kid who relates too much – but it also has an epic gothic scope that makes it completely enthralling.
Panic! At The Disco – Skid Row (Downtown)
It’s just not Halloween until I break out this cover. I mean, Little Shop Of Horrors isn’t technically a Halloween movie, but the B-Movie aesthetic, campy dialogue and scary but comedic villain is everything I love about this holiday. Skid Row is already a musical theatre classic, but Panic!’s cover gives it a showbiz flair and rock n’ roll power that I think actually adds to the emotion and stakes. Honourable mentions go to Brandon’s insane high notes and Dallon’s underutilised but incredible vocals that make me glad he’s finally started a project of his own.
Jinkx Monsoon – Creep
From angsty pre-teens to Fight Club fans, everybody loves Creep. It’s more than a classic, it’s basically inescapable. Jinkx Monsoon’s cover stands above the rest for me because she imbues it with a whole different kind of energy, both more tragic and more comedic, more frenetic but also more desperate. Jinkx’s take is distinctly queer as well as uniquely theatrical, but it still appeals to the immortal emo within me, and I’m guessing it will hit that same spot for you as well.
Marilyn Manson – Personal Jesus
If any song could be made for another artist to cover it, then Personal Jesus was made for Marilyn Manson. Not only does it poke fun at the Antichrist image of himself the media has discussed for decades, but it also feels appropriate given his status as a cult icon to his fans. As a cover, it gives the track a punch and a rowdiness that its smoother interpretations just don’t have, but it’s not so far into metal territory that it’s unpalatable to a mainstream audience. In short, this is the track that cemented Manson for me as the god of Halloween covers.
Annie Lennox – I Put A Spell On You
Everything Annie Lennox touches turns to gold, and I Put A Spell On You is already the quintessential Halloween track. Although the Bette Midler version from Hocus Pocus is awesomely camp and much better to dance to, this stripped back bluesy cover is a nice grown-up alternative. Spooky and sultry and subtle all at once, it can transport you to a smoky jazz club in an instant, even if you’re in a grubby dive bar where the floor is sticky after one too many monster-themed cocktails. Sidenote: look at her outfit! Man I want to be her when I grow up.
Jinkx Monsoon & Major Scales – Witchcraft
Speaking of old Jazz standards, Witchcraft is another one that’s hard to beat, and this cover proves that you don’t have to completely reinvent a track to put your own spin on it. Jinkx’s version is simple and stripped back, with a jaunty piano that feels like you’re listening to a live recording from several decades ago. It’s cutesy and kitschy and the perfect slow dance song – perfect for any couple who believe Morticia and Gomez Adams are complete relationship goals.
Marilyn Manson – Cry Little Sister
Okay, I admit it! I really do love Marilyn Manson! This is the latest of his solo Halloween-centric releases, and let me tell you it does not disappoint. Is it better than the original? Fans of the movie Lost Boys will probably vehemently deny it, but I’d argue it’s a pretty strong showing. It’s a perfect encapsulation of Manson’s modern style that shows why he’s not going anyway, and the choruses hit so hard it almost makes you want to sit back in your seat. Coven meeting, seance, pre-drinks before goth night at the club – this is the best all-purpose rock cover to keep your Halloween season deliciously dark.