Eminem – “Stan”

Release Date: 11.20.00

Peak: #53

You had to be there. That’s what they always say about pop that’s too much of its moment, and maybe it’s just as true of pop that’s too much opposed to its moment. An era that considered itself unworthy of bona fide Rock Stars got Marshall Mathers instead. And if the wily little mf wasn’t the last musician to see popularity as an opportunity to grapple with his culture in a larger-than-life forum, he was the last famous enough for the act not to go unnoticed or seem disproportionately grandiose. That boy was a credit to his race.

Like lots of famous dickheads, multi-platinum hip-hop delinquents habitually deny their cultural influence while inflating their cultural significance, in the process sounding even more confused than their most priggish critics. “Stan,” at least, acknowledges the complexity of the star-fan dynamic, following its passage from empathy, through homoerotic desire, climaxing with a hatred of both star and self. And if The Marshall Mathers LP ultimately, though implicitly, throws in with pop’s self-interested belief in free will–a fuckup like Stan would have lashed out regardless of his playlist, and Eminem’s songs may have even kept him alive longer–that tincture of doubt in its creator’s rhymes preventing “Stan” from becoming simply a lurid celebrity nightmare.

Of course, “Stan” is, among other things, a lurid celebrity nightmare, and its sonic construction is suitably dreamlike. The 45 King, who’d introduced Annie to the hood on “Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem),” here found a use for an even slighter bit of kitsch, aka Dido. the If Stan’s epistles float upward like unanswered prayers (and isn’t religion the most unrequited form of fandom?), Dido materializes in the chorus as some forlorn, useless angel. At the time, the rainstorm seemed a bit much, the pencil scrawling a lot much, the car screeching off the bridge way mucher than much. In retrospect, they add a fine Shadow Morton corniness, placing “Stan” in the melodramatic pop tradition of “Leader of the Pack” and, if nothing else, forcibly grabbing your attention.

Just ten years later, “Stan” seems insufficient to address contemporary celebrity. The imagined intimacy between fan and star still exists on some level, but fandom itself feels more knowing, and celebrities seem to have degenerated into more malleable playthings of a resentful mass public. The balance of idolization and envy in “Stan” seems to have tilted in favor of the latter. So the song may be more of its moment than I suggested. In any case, you shoulda been there.

Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.


  • Weldon Burki  On February 24, 2010 at 11:50 am

    Oh my Eminem aka Marshall Bruce Mathers III. Lately I’ve become his number 1 fan and can never get too much information or articles about Eminem’s career. Have to admit that the posting relating to Eminem attracted my attention as I have not checked your blog before. As his father left the family when he was a child the media age has been opportunity for large earnings and media coverage which he has taken on well, fending off the ruin with too much reporting and pressure experienced by different celebrities. Admired his releases Marshall Mathers, Relapse although the contents sometimes are distressing. Obscure overtones and not making for a cheerful world.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: