Why aren’t there more Halloween songs?

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Ask a hundred people their favorite Christmas song and you could potentially hear 100 different responses because there are literally thousands of songs to choose from. Halloween, on the other hand, has little more than “Monster Mash” and “Thriller.”

It seems odd when you compare the two holidays in another way: just like Christmas, there’s no shortage of Halloween-themed movies, candy, or costumes. Partygoers are just as hyped for Halloween as they are for Christmas; they also tend to overeat and decorate their gardens equally showily for both holidays. Still, there isn’t a huge catalog of Halloween music.

Halloween-themed playlists often get desperately off topic very quickly, as if they’re based on keywords rather than the songs themselves: “Ghost Town” by The Specials, for example, is about unemployment , no ghosts, and “She-Wolf” is about getting excited, not turning into a werewolf. So where did the spookiest holiday go astray, musically speaking?

As NPR music writer Stephen Thompson wrote in 2014, while Halloween and Christmas are commercial holidays, Christmas is part of an entire “season,” whereas Halloween is a single event. “I don’t think of [the] weeks [leading up to Halloween] like ‘Halloween season,'” Thompson said. “And I don’t think of my trips to the grocery store and various online retailers to be part of ‘Halloween shopping.’ precious little music from the Super Bowl; neither marks a big party as much as an event.

Accordingly, Thompson points out that the Halloween-specific music that exists, including “Do They Know It’s Hallowe’en?”, a spooky remake of “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” from Band-Aid, and Ryan Gosling and Zach Shields’ formation of Dead Man’s Bones for a self-titled single album of Halloween music in 2009 is equally short-lived. While recording a Christmas song or album has become a rite of passage for hundreds of well-known musicians (Mariah Carey is currently under fire for trying to trademark the name “The Queen of Christmas”), the lack of Halloween music that exists makes the idea of ​​recording an entire album a major undertaking (as covers of classic holiday songs are largely out of the question).

The darker connotations of the holidays don’t help either. Halloween has changed a lot over the years, much more than Christmas. While the holiday’s origins date back thousands of years to the Celtic festival known as Samhain, many of Halloween’s most prominent iconographies and traditions, such as trick-or-treating, are much more recent developments. , as divination rituals have given way to costume parades.

Although Christmas is not a universally celebrated holiday, its existence as a holiday does not tend to offend many people, which cannot be said of Halloween. Some Christian groups are extremely opposed to people frivolously profiting from what they see as a celebration of the forces of evil – a factor that could be hugely detrimental to potential record sales.

Jack Chick, the fundamentalist cartoonist whose tiny comic strips (known as Chick tracts) were distributed to millions of people every year, was a leading anti-Halloween campaigner who once said, “Satan loves Halloween because that he values ​​the powers of darkness, drawing few children into his camp.While not a common view, there has been enough suspicion surrounding Halloween over the years to potentially prevent some artists and companies from using it. investing too much time in finding creative ways to sing about ghosts, goblins, and other supernatural villains.

When the Great American Songbook was created in the first half of the 20th century, radio was very much on the conservative side, so Christmas is the only holiday in the codified canon of standards.

Bobby “Boris” Pickett’s “Monster Mash” is arguably the king of the few Halloween songs out there. The song, which was first recorded in 1962, topped the Billboard charts upon its release and rose from the dead to reclaim its place on the charts several times over the years as October 31 approached. While the song never explicitly mentions Halloween and was originally released in August, Pickett’s decision to impersonate 1940s horror icons Boris Karloff and (briefly) Peter Lorre makes it a joyous celebration of archetypes. horror. Best of all, it’s catchy, silly and fun, and not scary at all.

Probably the greatest pretender to the throne that has long been occupied by “Monster Mash” is “This Is Halloween”, from The Nightmare Before Christmas. It’s a great song which, for those of us who don’t have the vocal talents of the great Danny Elfman, is quite difficult to sing in its entirety – it rises both very high and very low and requires a lot more of flair than an amateur. interpretation of “Jingle Bells”. Perhaps the answer is to adopt the ability to sing Christmas classics by simply replacing the words.

In 2020, Maria Asimopoulos summed up the simplest reason for the lack of Halloween music for The Daily Fandom by concluding, “Christmas is a holiday associated with happiness and joy. At the same time, Halloween epitomizes terror and death, so it makes sense that Ariana Grande wouldn’t jump at the chance to darken her brand of pop with the grim reaper.

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