The Truth Behind Eminem's 'Stan'

Too often in this world, society zeroes in on the negative. War, disease, and suffering are the hallmarks of a shareable news piece. Celebrity misery is the stuff of break room conversation. It is important, therefore, to step back from the brink of cultural pessimism, from time to time, and remember that there are good things, too. Silly things. Objectively funny things. For example, in 2000, when all signs pointed to the Fresh Prince's monopolizing of the hip hop scene thanks to the long-foretold coming of the Willenium, one Marshall Bruce Mathers III released what remains today one of the wackiest rap singles of all time: "Stan." It's the musical story of a goofball who loved Eminem so much he forgot that you can't mail things after you're dead. It's like Detroit Rock City, but with Dido and grown-up words. It slaps.

Two decades later, "Stan" is remembered, inexplicably, not as a lyrical contemporary to The Fat Boys' "Are You Ready For Freddy?," much less "Do The Bartman," but as a masterwork of the Eminem catalog — a song that hit number one in eleven countries, and received near-universal acclaim. Twenty years on, what can be said about the origins of this profanity-laced star in the cultural night sky? Most importantly, was "Stan" based on a real person? 

Parents just don't under-stan

The good news (or bad news, if you hate good news) is that the Stan presented in the song wasn't based on a particular guy. He was conceptual — the result of Eminem's infinite imagination being put to the question of "What if somebody loved me so much that they drowned their girlfriend?" According to Vice, the whole thing came about when producer Mark Howard James, AKA The 45 King, saw a TV ad for Sliding Doors featuring "Thank You" by Dido. His 45 Majesty taped the song, added a bass line, and sent the recording to Marshall Mathers. The connection was immediate, Eminem has claimed, and the line "Your picture on my wall" caused an instant reaction. "This is about an obsessed fan," he said, describing the ah-ha moment. "That's all I kept thinking." Clearly, the thought process struck a nerve. 

Today, the word "Stan" has transcended its original context and been recognized by the Oxford English Dictionary as meaning "an overzealous or obsessive fan of a particular celebrity." Chances are, you know at least one person who describes themselves as "stanning" for an actor or singer. And if you do, maybe check their trunk.