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4. Eminem – Stan


Pretty much everything about Stan is sad. There’s the jilted fan’s anger, his upbringing, a history of untreated mental health problems, the perceived rejection. Then there’s the breakdown of communication – Stan’s unanswered letters, shifting from apologetic to apoplectic, followed by Eminem’s uncharacteristically sensitive reply, ironically aware of the delicate situation. Then there’s the sadness of discovering that heroes aren’t all they seem: “See everything you say is real,” insists Stan, but not so, counters Eminem: “I say that shit just clowin’ dawg – c’mon, how fucked up is you?” (Indeed, from that point of view, Stan is a sort of disclaimer, Eminem’s cute way of admitting that he’s more mouth than trouser). And finally there’s the sadness of two people’s avoidable deaths, violent and unsettling, all set to the hopeless delusion of “I’ve got your picture on my wall / It reminds me that it’s not so bad”: for a song about absent idols, it doesn’t get much more desolate.
      But the bleakness of Stan isn’t overbearing, or difficult to identify with. Indeed, anger as a result of rejection (albeit not this strong) is easy to understand, and Eminem’s character acting is supremely convincing here – his fricatives as Stan says, “I just think it’s fucked up you don’t answer fans” is particularly chastening, and his staccato flow in Stan’s final verse, emphasising the “dream”, “sleep”, “breath” and “scream” is delivered brilliantly, tense and taut.
      Of course, an artist like Eminem composing a narrative with so many ironies and subtleties only augments Stan’s stature further – this is a welcome break from crass raps about weed and sex. It’s not just Eminem’s moment of clarity at the song’s climax that’s impressively told either – as Stan commiserates in his first letter, “I’m sorry, I had a friend kill himself over some bitch who didn’t want him”, the tableau of rejection and history-repeating is painted with a detail seldom seen in pop.
      Still, cleverness notwithstanding, pretty much everything about Stan really is sad. But it’s poignant too, frequently profound, honest and shocking, which saves it from pure wallowing. Self-aware, impressively constructed (and then deconstructed) and moving, Stan isn’t just Eminem’s best song of the decade, it might just be the most powerful hip-hop song of all time.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Kat Arney permalink
    21/12/2009 4:56 pm

    Awesome song – but let us not forget it was the tune that released Dido on an unsuspecting world, therefore loses points

  2. 01/08/2010 3:40 am

    Eminem is The Best.

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