|Single by Eminem featuring Dido|
|from the album The Marshall Mathers LP|
|Released||November 21, 2000|
6:44 (album version)|
5:31 (radio edit)
|Eminem singles chronology|
|Dido singles chronology|
Eminem – "Stan"
"Stan" is a song by American rapper Eminem featuring English singer Dido. It was released on November 21, 2000 as the third single from Eminem's third album The Marshall Mathers LP (2000). It reached number one in twelve countries, including the United Kingdom, Germany, Ireland and Australia.
Dido's lyrics are a remix of the opening lines from her song "Thank You." The 45 King-produced track also uses a slightly modified break from "Thank You" as its base sample. Coincidentally, both songs were released as singles in late 2000. "Stan" has been called one of Eminem's best songs and is considered one of his signature songs. Rolling Stone magazine ranked "Stan" at #296 in their list in The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. The song was also listed at #15 on VH1's list of the greatest hip hop songs of all-time and was also named in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.
The song was nominated for multiple awards, including Best Song at the MTV Europe Music Awards, Video of the Year, Best Rap Video, Best Direction, Best Cinematography at the MTV Video Music Awards, but only won Best International Artist Video at the MuchMusic Video Awards. In April 2011, Complex magazine put together a list of the 100 greatest Eminem songs, ranking "Stan" at #2. The name of the eponymous character has given rise to a slang term online which refers to overzealous, maniacal, overly obsessed fans of a celebrity or personality; the term has been included in the Oxford English Dictionary.
The song tells the story of a person named Stanley "Stan" Mitchell who claims to be the biggest fan of Eminem. Stan writes a plethora of letters to Eminem; with each verse he becomes gradually more obsessed with him, and when there is no reply, he becomes progressively angrier. He finally creates a voice recording of himself driving his car into a river, with his pregnant girlfriend in the trunk, as shown in the lyrics:
"So this is my cassette I'm sending you, I hope you hear it. I'm in the car right now, doing 90 on the freeway. Hey Slim, I drank a fifth of vodka, you dare me to drive? See Slim... (Stan's girlfriend screams from the trunk) Shut up, bitch! I'm trying to talk! Hey Slim, that's my girlfriend screaming in the trunk. But I didn't slit her throat, I just tied her up. See, I ain't like you, 'cause if she suffocates, she'll suffer more, then she'll die too. Well, gotta go, I'm almost at the bridge now... Oh, shit! I forgot! How am I supposed to send this shit out?!"
The first three verses are delivered by Eminem as Stan, while the fourth verse is Eminem as himself attempting to write to Stan and reason with the troubled young man, only to realize--to his shock--that he had already heard about Stan's death on the news.
The video is a literal interpretation of the story, featuring Devon Sawa as Stan and Dido as his pregnant girlfriend. A prologue involves Stan dying his hair blonde and reacting angrily to being called "Stanley." Later, Stan sits in a room "full of your posters and your pictures," with Eminem's image on every available surface, writing letters that express his devotion as "your (Eminem's) biggest fan." He is aware of even the most minute developments in Eminem's personal life.
Stan wants Eminem to contact him through a personal letter or a phone call; but, due to unfortunate circumstances, the letters fail to reach Eminem in a timely manner. Believing he has been ignored, Stan uses a tape recorder to document his most disturbing act yet: he ties up his girlfriend, stows her in his trunk, and drives along a rain-soaked highway, intending to drive off a bridge. His final communication involves a reference to "My Name Is" ("I drank a fifth of vodka, dare me to drive?") as well as invoking the popular urban legend that Phil Collins's "In the Air Tonight" was a true story, before realizing he has no way of transmitting this particular tape to "Slim," and committing the act anyway.
Eminem finally gets around to responding to Stan. He apologizes for being late, thanks him for being a fan, and expresses interest in Stan's personal life. Eminem worries about Stan's mental state and says he doesn't want Stan to end up like a story he had seen on the news recently—a man who had driven drunk off a bridge with his girlfriend in the trunk, about whom he quickly realizes, "It was you!!! Damn.”
In the MTV "clean" version the song and video were censored. Significant portions from the first two verses and most of the third verse were removed. MTV also cut out all traces of Stan’s girlfriend bound in the trunk of the car and removed one scene showing him guzzling vodka while driving. In the MTV full version, which is 8:15 long, verse 3 censors Stan mentioning his girlfriend in the trunk (so "Shut up bitch" and "screaming in the trunk" is censored), and about him not slitting her throat, but tied her up, and "if she suffocates, she'll suffer more, then she'll die too", which "slit", "tied her up", "suffocates", and "die" is censored.
Dido has stated that she was gagged in the third verse of the video, but this was censored so widely that versions with her gagged are rare. In the uncensored version, Stan is shown drinking at the wheel of the car before showing Dido struggling in the trunk of the car. She manages to remove the duct tape from her mouth and screams before struggling for breath. Most versions were censored so that there is only a brief clip of Dido in the trunk of the car towards the end of the verse. It also censors when Stan says he "drank a fifth of vodka", which censors "drank" and "vodka"; and censors when he says he's on "a thousand downers", which "downers" is censored; and also censors Stan drinking while driving. At the end of the third verse, "Well, gotta go, I'm almost at the bridge now" is changed to "Well, gotta go, I'm almost at the end of the bridge now". In the fourth verse, the line "[And what's this] shit about us meant to be together" is completely censored. All references to the girlfriend in the trunk are censored out, including the line: "And had his girlfriend in his trunk, and she was pregnant with his kid."
In the MTV short version, which was used for radio airplay due to time constraints, the second verse lines that are missing are from "I ain't that mad though, I just don't like bein' lied to" to "I even got a tattoo of your name across the chest"; the video cuts showing Stan meeting Eminem, talking about how his father cheated and beat his mother and showed him getting a "Slim Shady" tattoo on his chest. The missing lyrics from the third verse are of Stan talking about drinking while driving and referencing "In the Air Tonight", which in the video, it skips from showing Stan near-missing a car, and swerving to avoid crashing into it. The lines that are missing are from "Hey Slim, I drank a fifth of vodka, you dare to me to drive?" to "I hope you know I ripped all of your pictures off the wall". It also removes the chorus after the third verse and goes straight to the fourth verse; the video then cuts to Eminem at last receiving the letter from Stan, and the car sinking more into the water.
In the Fuse version of the video, various lines and words are silenced, more so than on the clean version of the LP; half of one of the beginning verses are cut out, and then the song fades out about halfway through the second verse. The LP version of the song is over six minutes long, and, as mentioned, the full version of the video is 8:15; however, when Fuse played the video, it was slightly over two minutes.
In Fuse's original state as a rock and alternative station, the same versions as on MTV were shown. "Stan" was also released on track 17 of Curtain Call: The Hits, which features Elton John. On the clean and explicit versions of Curtain Call: The Hits, the live track censored only the profanity, unlike the clean version of the studio track version of "Stan".
Stephen Thomas Erlewine highlighted the song. Entertainment Weekly praised the song, too: "Eminem proves himself a peerless rap poet with a profound understanding of the power of language. Stan, an epistolary exchange between the artist and a dangerously obsessive fan, may be the most moving song about star worship ever recorded" and added that "Stan" blazes significant new ground for rap. LA Times was also positive: "'Stan', the album's most haunting track, is superb storytelling with a point. It has the affecting tone of such rap high points as Ice Cube's 'It Was a Good Day' and 2Pac's 'Dear Mama'."
An album review found on CD Universe shares a similar opinion: "The most startling moment has to be 'Stan', featuring haunting, ethereal guest vocals from Dido; an incongruously sublime track, it spins an O. Henry-meets-'60s teenage-death-song tale of obsessed fan worship gone terribly wrong." NME magazine praised the song: "'Stan' is a wonderful short story, an astute study in extreme fandom." Sputnik Music described that "Stan's sampling of Dido and use of rain and writing sound effects" make the album versatile. The same critic listed the song in the Recommended Downloads list and reviewed it:
"If you haven't heard this, you probably make a career out of living under rocks. It tells the story of an obsessive fan who kills themselves because their idol (Eminem) never writes back, and introduces one of the album's key themes – the scary power of fame. Ironic, then, that this album made him the biggest cultural figurehead on the planet. It starts with a sample of Dido's 'Thank You' under a sample of rain. This sample goes on to form the song's hook, relating the level of Stan's obsession and almost making him a sympathetic character (Your picture on my wall/It reminds me that it's not so bad....). Offsetting this is Eminem's raps under the persona of Stan, which reveal him as a reprehensible character; mentally unstable, self-mutilating, sexually confused, volatile, and abusive to his pregnant girlfriend (whose life he takes too, when he takes his own). Eminem's final verse is him attempting to write back, asking him not to be like this guy he saw on the news....Overplayed? Yes. But even so, of all of Eminem's singles, this one demonstrates his power as a rapper and his skill as a poet best."
IGN praised the song as "easily the most scathingly introspective rumination on fan adoration, idol assimilation, and borderline stalker etiquette. Teamed to Dido's lulling 'Thank You' with its almost somnambulistically hypnotic pop sultriness provides a jolting contrast to the twisted storyline of a musical obsession gone awry. It also paints a picture of what it's like to be knee deep in the push-and-pull world of a superstar. The song's poignancy never fades, even almost five years later it's still potent." Slant Magazine was mixed: "'Stan' is an interesting look into the mind of a fanatic (albeit through the eyes of an equally disturbed individual), but it's structured entirely around someone else's work (Dido's 'Thank You')."
"Stan" is perhaps Eminem's most critically acclaimed song, after "Lose Yourself", and has been called a "cultural milestone", referred to as "Eminem's best song" by About.com. Analyzing "Stan" in The Guardian, writer and literary critic Giles Foden compared Eminem to Robert Browning.
At the 2001 Grammy Awards, when he was facing all manner of criticism from GLAAD over his lyrics, Eminem responded by performing "Stan" with singer Elton John, who is openly gay, singing Dido's lines. Many of the profanities were substituted, for example, "You're like his favorite idol" in place of "You're like his fucking idol", and "stuff" for "shit". Recordings of this performance were available for download on Eminem's official website Eminem.com and, later, on his 2005 greatest hits release Curtain Call: The Hits.
Christian rap artist KJ-52 recorded two songs: "Dear Slim" and "Dear Slim, Part II", attempting to contact Eminem and talk to him about his own faith and help him through his troubles. The lyrics to "Dear Slim" reference the obsessed fan in "Stan". Various instruments within the song "My Life" by The Game were taken from "Stan."
Rapper Canibus released a response track to this song titled "U Didn't Care" in which Canibus, portraying Stan, accused Eminem of not caring about him at all.
"Stan" has entered into the lexicon as a term for an overly-obsessed fan of someone or something. The term is especially popular in the rap community; in "Ether", the anti-Jay-Z diss track, Nas notably called Jay-Z a "stan" of both himself and The Notorious B.I.G.. The term was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2017.
"Stan" has been listed by many as one of the greatest hip-hop songs of all time. It was ranked #3 on a list of the greatest rap songs in history by Q magazine and came tenth in a similar survey conducted by Top40-Charts.com. Rolling Stone Magazine's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time ranked it #290, one of Eminem's two songs on the list along with "Lose Yourself"; in the updated 2010 list, it was ranked at #296. It ranked #45 on About.com's Top 100 Rap Songs.
The song ranked #15 on VH1's 100 Greatest Songs of Hip Hop, and #2 on their Countdown Millennium Songs. It was also named the 46th Best Song of the Decade by Complex magazine, and the 10th Best Song of the decade by Rolling Stone Magazine. The song was ranked at number 58 in Rolling Stone Magazine's list of "100 Greatest Hip-Hop songs of all time".
Charts and certifications
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- White Noise: The Eminem Collection. Thunder's Mouth Press. 2003. ISBN 978-1-56025-534-5.
"Stan," Eminem's most celebrated track, folds an epistolary rap into a horrorcore scenario.
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