Single from the album The Marshall Mathers LP
Billboard Hot 100 Peak Position: 51
Billboard Hot Rap Songs: 22
Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All-Time: 296
VH1's Greatest Hip-Hop Songs of All-Time: 15
The eerie Dido sample, the six-and-a-half minute length, the subject matter and concept of the song. Everything about “Stan” immediately set itself apart from Eminem’s previous work. When an artist strays from his or her comfort zone, it can either fail miserably (see: Lil Wayne attempting rock) or set the bar even higher for the artist. Luckily, the latter was true for “Stan”, clearly Eminem’s best song, a landmark song that is only loosely defined as “hip-hop.”
Even the staunchest hip-hop naysayers have to at least appreciate “Stan” as great storytelling, a knack that Eminem has showcased dating back to The Slim Shady LP (“My Fault” is the rare, dichotomous comedy-tragedy, with more emphasis on the former; “’97 Bonnie & Clyde” has Em talking to his baby daughter as they go dump the dead body of her mother, Kim). True, there are better examples of Eminem as a straight-up rapper (“Still Don’t Give a Fuck” and “Marshall Mathers” are two of my favorites), but the powerfully engrossing story of Stan as the unstable, obsessed fan launches the titular song into its own stratosphere.
As Stan writes to Eminem in the first three verses, the listener can almost relate to Stan’s plight of writing to a celebrity role model in hopes of a response, but to no avail. Stan epitomizes the blindly obsessed admirer, taking Eminem’s lyrics literally (drinking a fifth of vodka, putting his girlfriend in the trunk etc.) A scary, sad tale, but through the fiction is some fact: Some people take Eminem’s ridiculous lyrics to heart (who didn’t he piss off with The Marshall Mathers LP?) Em’s response in the last verse reveals a level-headed guy who is "sayin' that shit just clownin’, dawg”. “Stan” has it all: A great story that gradually builds with detectable emotion that is matched by the melancholic raindrop background. In the brutally honest “The Way I Am”, Em laments that he will never be able to top “My Name Is”. That’s a mistake. He will never be able to top “Stan”.