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The Meaning of Eminem’s “Stan”

Eminem live in 2000. Photo by Mika Väisänen.

Eminem’s “Stan” comes from the rapper’s 2000 album, The Marshall Mathers LP, which many say is Eminem’s best album.

The Marshall Mathers LP is best known for the artist-defining track “The Real Slim Shady” and “Stan”, the famous dark commentary on obsessive fans and mental health.

“Stan” is a classic rap song that has even made a permanent imprint on the pop culture landscape with it now being used in common language to refer to hardcore fans of any artist.

The song features vocals from Dido’s “Thank You”, which was released as a single on its own around the same time, though had originally appeared on the soundtrack to the 1998 film Sliding Doors.

Eminem’s “Stan” was popular, but it was never got much radio airplay in the U.S. However it was a number one hit in 12 countries including both the UK and Australia.

Dido’s “Thank You”, on the other hand, was a massive radio hit in the United States, reaching #3 on the Billboard Hot 100.

The fact that both songs were released as singles around the same time likely contributed to the exposure received by both of them. The pair even performed together a handful of times around the time of the song’s release, including on Saturday Night Live in October 2000.

“Stan” Lyrics Meaning

The lyrics to “Stan” showcase Eminem’s knack for storytelling, with each of the four verses continuing the narrative.

The first three verses are imagined as Stan’s voice messages to Eminem, which grow increasingly frustrated as they are left unreturned for longer and longer.

Before Eminem tells the story of this fan, though, we hear from Dido on the chorus, repeated twice:

My tea’s gone cold, I’m wondering why I
Got out of bed at all
The morning rain clouds up my window
And I can’t see at all
And even if I could it’d all be gray
But your picture on my wall
It reminds me that it’s not so bad, it’s not so bad

Dido’s “Thank You” sampled in “Stan” by Eminem.

Dido’s contribution serves to set the eerie mood, as Eminem paints the deranged picture of Stan, starting with the first verse:

Dear Slim, I wrote you, but you still ain’t callin’
I left my cell, my pager and my home phone at the bottom
I sent two letters back in autumn, you must not’ve got ’em
There probably was a problem at the post office or somethin’
Sometimes I scribble addresses too sloppy when I jot ’em
But anyways, fuck it, what’s been up, man? How’s your daughter?
My girlfriend’s pregnant too, I’m ’bout to be a father
If I have a daughter, guess what I’ma call her?
I’ma name her Bonnie
I read about your Uncle Ronnie too, I’m sorry
I had a friend kill himself over some bitch who didn’t want him
I know you probably hear this every day, but I’m your biggest fan
I even got the underground shit that you did with Skam
I got a room full of your posters and your pictures, man
I like the shit you did with Rawkus too, that shit was phat
Anyways, I hope you get this, man, hit me back
Just to chat, truly yours, your biggest fan, this is Stan

First verse to “Stan” by Eminem.

The first verse starts out mostly innocent, though teetering on obsessive, with Stan referencing two letters he had written previously.

However, its clear that Stan is a superfan based on his knowledge of Eminem’s personal life and deep cuts.

When Stan says he wants to name his daughter Bonnie, he is referring to Bonnie & Clyde, whom Eminem released a song about in 1999 called “97 Bonnie and Clyde”.

Stan also refers to Eminem’s Uncle Ronnie, also known as Ronnie Polkingharn, who truly was his uncle who committed suicide after a breakup.

Finally, Stan brings up some underground music that Eminem made with rappers Skam and Rawkus.

We hear from Dido again with another beat of the chorus before moving into the second verse:

Dear Slim, you still ain’t called or wrote, I hope you have a chance
I ain’t mad, I just think it’s fucked up you don’t answer fans
If you didn’t want to talk to me outside your concert, you didn’t have to
But you coulda signed an autograph for Matthew
That’s my little brother, man, he’s only six years old
We waited in the blisterin’ cold
For you, for four hours, and you just said no
That’s pretty shitty, man, you’re like his fuckin’ idol
He wants to be just like you, man, he likes you more than I do
I ain’t that mad, though I just don’t like bein’ lied to
Remember when we met in Denver?
You said if I’d write you, you would write back
See, I’m just like you in a way: I never knew my father neither
He used to always cheat on my mom and beat her
I can relate to what you’re sayin’ in your songs
So when I have a shitty day, I drift away and put ’em on
‘Cause I don’t really got shit else
So that shit helps when I’m depressed
I even got a tattoo with your name across the chest
Sometimes I even cut myself to see how much it bleeds
It’s like adrenaline, the pain is such a sudden rush for me
See, everything you say is real, and I respect you ‘cause you tell it
My girlfriend’s jealous ’cause I talk about you 24/7
But she don’t know you like I know you, Slim, no one does
She don’t know what it was like for people like us growin’ up
You gotta call me, man, I’ll be the biggest fan you’ll ever lose
Sincerely yours, Stan—P.S. We should be together too

Second verse to “Stan” by Eminem.

It gets darker in the second verse, with Stan starting to show some frustration about not receiving a reply from the rapper.

Stan brings up a few occasions when he felt that Eminem slighted him in person, when they met outside of his shows.

He then reveals some disturbing details about his own life, including that he cuts himself. He threatens suicide and then reveals that he even has romantic intentions with Eminem.

The chorus drops in once again, before things get really unhinged in the third verse:

Dear Mr. I’m-Too-Good-to-Call-or-Write-My-Fans
This’ll be the last package I ever send your ass
It’s been six months, and still no word—I don’t deserve it?
I know you got my last two letters, I wrote the addresses on ’em perfect
So this is my cassette I’m sendin’ you, I hope you hear it
I’m in the car right now, I’m doin’ 90 on the freeway
Hey, Slim, I drank a fifth of vodka, you dare me to drive?
You know the song by Phil Collins, “In the Air of the Night”
About that guy who coulda saved that other guy from drownin’
But didn’t, then Phil saw it all, then at a show he found him?
That’s kinda how this is: you coulda rescued me from drownin’
Now it’s too late, I’m on a thousand downers now—I’m drowsy
And all I wanted was a lousy letter or a call
I hope you know I ripped all of your pictures off the wall
I loved you, Slim, we coulda been together—think about it!
You ruined it now, I hope you can’t sleep and you dream about it
And when you dream I hope you can’t sleep and you scream about it
I hope your conscience eats at you and you can’t breathe without me
See, Slim—shut up, bitch! I’m tryin’ to talk
Hey, Slim, that’s my girlfriend screamin’ 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 and 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?!

Third verse to “Stan” by Eminem.

Stan is distrought now, and you can hear it in Eminem’s reciting of his voicemail.

He’s and doing 90 on the freeway, and he brings in a reference to Eminem’s hit “My Name Is” off the Slim Shady LP, saying that he’s drank an entire fifth of vodka.

Stan explains that his love for Eminem has turned to hatred, and in retaliation he’s going to kill himself and his girlfriend. We can even hear her shouting in the trunk.

Dear Stan, I meant to write you sooner, but I just been busy
You said your girlfriend’s pregnant now, how far along is she?
Look, I’m really flattered you would call your daughter that
And here’s an autograph for your brother; I wrote it on a Starter cap
I’m sorry I didn’t see you at the show, I must’ve missed you
Don’t think I did that shit intentionally just to diss you
But what’s this shit you said about you like to cut your wrists too?
I say that shit just clownin’, dawg, come on, how fucked up is you?
You got some issues, Stan, I think you need some counselin’
To help your ass from bouncin’ off the walls when you get down some
And what’s this shit about us meant to be together?
That type of shit’ll make me not want us to meet each other
I really think you and your girlfriend need each other
Or maybe you just need to treat her better
I hope you get to read this letter, I just hope it reaches you in time
Before you hurt yourself, I think that you’ll be doin’ just fine
If you relax a little, I’m glad I inspire you, but Stan
Why are you so mad? Try to understand that I do want you as a fan
I just don’t want you to do some crazy shit
I seen this one shit on the news a couple weeks ago that made me sick
Some dude was drunk and drove his car over a bridge
And had his girlfriend in the trunk, and she was pregnant with his kid
And in the car they found a tape, but they didn’t say who it was to
Come to think about it, his name was—it was you

Fourth verse to “Stan” by Eminem.

The fourth verse is rapped in the first person by Eminem, who has just received and opened all of Stan’s increasingly creepy letters and goes to write his reply.

Eminem apologizes for the delay and explains that he’s been busy. He offers words of encouragement, telling Stan to just relax and he’ll be alright.

As he writes he comes to realize that he’s writing to the guy that he heard about on the news, who killed himself and his girlfriend and how they found a tape in the trunk, which was Stan’s tape from the third verse.

Eminem’s lyrics craft a compelling, deranged story about this fan. They’re extremely well-written, and his delivery is the icing on the cake, helping us believe that these are characters who really exist.

“Stan” Music Video

The cinematic music video for “Stan” was directed by Dr. Dre and Phillip Atwell, and it provides a visual representation of the story exactly as Eminem raps it.

It opens with a prologue that introduces Stan, as he dyes his hair blonde to look like Eminem and begins to lash out as his girlfriend. Then we watch as he continues his descent into obsessive fanboying.

While it wouldn’t be surprising in this day and age to find that Stan was based on a true story, Eminem actually made up this entire story off the top of his head. It’s a work of art.

Watch the music video for “Stan” by Eminem below.

“Stan” in Popular Culture

Not long after “Stan” was released, people began using the word to describe overzealous fans of other celebrities. It became more widespread over time and in 2006 it was added to Urban Dictionary, with the example being used describing Kobe Bryant Stans.

Over time, with the internet and social media becoming more prominent in our lives, it has become easier to stalk people. Especially celebrities. This has led to a rise in what is known as “stan culture”, in which many artists have an obsessive group of extremely invested superfans who know everything about the artist they love.

Although the original meaning of “Stan” was dark and represented being a fan that becomes a stalker (which ironically shortens to “stan”), the prominence of stan culture and the widespread use of the term has taken some of the edge off, and it isn’t quite as derogatory in meaning these days.

The use of stan has become so common that both the Oxford english dictionary and the Merriam-Webster dictionary have added the word to their index with the definition that Eminem first invented in 2000.