When Eminem sang a song called Stan he imagined
a world where a crazy fan was outraged by the star
not recognising how much he cared, too busy to reply,
uninterested in acknowledging that it was the fans that
helped make stars who they were, how they are and what
they became. It’s a lurid fantasy that is brilliantly realised,
deftly written and delivered at the first peak of his fame.
It rides along on another song, making stars of both Eminem
and Dido. (I’m sure she wanted to thank him for giving her
the best hit of her career). I was only an Eminem fan for a matter
of minutes in the scheme of things. The cartoonery meant it
could never stick for me. It was clever but not very musical – it
was tactical but not very tactful, impactful but not really
as radical as the hardcore might tell you. And besides he just
yelled at you, words sticking sharp like they were caught in his
throat and the violence and misogyny was mostly boring
to me and my white privilege. There are moments. And Stan
is one. It’s held up well – because the writing is there. It’s
on full display. It’s still crushing to this day. Still real. You still
feel every word that he spits, it sits heavy in my mind, it wears
heavy on your heart, in your soul – there’s control in the way that
he phrases, and places the words. And the choices are smart.
And there’s art. There is art. There is art in the way he chooses
what to say. That’s the thing with it. That’s why it’s one of his best.
And twenty years on – it’s like hearing a classic rock song.
Which is wrong. On so many levels. And not what he planned
when he wrote that song Stan. But also the kids of the people that
probably wrote the song off as rude and silly and shouty and nasty
have grown up to call themselves Stans when they’re obsessed as
great fans of the untouchable and unreachable. They stalk Twitter
and yell at thin air. They care on a level that just isn’t real. They feel
outrage at the thought that someone could care less than them. But as
with the worst of any fan their crime is that they’re not really listening
at all. Which is the first line in the job description. The worst irony of all
is to give yourself the name of the cautionary tale as a way of
suggesting you’re above and beyond. But these are irony-free days.
So the Stans have their say. And play it their way. And we’re all
just a meme away from being cancelled. Eminem is worth millions.
And some people think that’s the real crime here. When he wrote
Stan he did more to help the world than most of us could ever know
or will ever do. I listened to it for the first time in an age just the other
day, I didn’t hear much of his rage, just compassion and craft and care.
Imagine the drafts, and the world that went into that.
Imagine the read-backs and the rough notes and the decisions.
Imagine reading tweets where people call themselves Stans.
Imagine still thinking “rap is crap” and feeling okay about saying that.
Like it was an opinion that mattered or meant anything at all.
Like parasitic fandom could ever mean anything