Stan – Eminem (Marshall Mathers LP, 2000)
Utilizing an unlikely sample, “Stan” by Eminem showed an emerging hip-hop force beginning to tap into his burgeoning powers. Not only was the Dido song “Thank You” still a current song from an adult contemporary artist, but it hardly seemed the bedrock for something as dark and twisted as the fan-fantasy gone wrong classic this tune became.
But listen and by slowing down the beat and using the reassuring rejoinder “it reminds me it’s not so bad, it’s not so bad” along with the storm in the background that gets more intense as our main character, Stan, devolves is pure genius. Not only is it memorable, it really captures the essence of what Eminem could actually be going through, even if in an exaggerated form.
This song is part “Criminal Minds”, part Marshall Mather’s yarn-spinning and part a warning to fans not to place too much faith in their heroes. As for the track itself it really is great in how it progresses in the beginning from a fan who’s reaching out to his hero in Em and how he just wants to show gratitude. By the second letter it’s clear this guy is a few dimes short of a dollar as he begins to express frustration over not hearing back from him and was disillusioned by what he perceives are promises not kept in passing. By the third letter (actually tape) Stan is acting out his rage and frustration of his nightmarish life while blaming Eminem for his short-coming’s and even manages to work Phil Collins into the scenario while he does the unthinkable.
If he had left it there it would’ve been a noteworthy song, but what drives it into classic territory is when he has Mathers actually write back to Stan revealing the stresses of celebrity and how the time commitments make it impossible to keep up with fans the way he’d like. By the end though he realizes that Stan is a casualty of mental problems as the song ends with one last crack of lightning and a “Damn!”. Which was kind of my reaction when I get to the end realizing the amount of work that must have went into this and how it all came together.