Eminem – Stan – Lyrics analysis, interpretation and meaning

Songwriting analysis
Read the Songwriting – Lyrics analysis


Stan is the third track on The Marshall Mathers LP album that Eminem released in May 2000, by Aftermath Entertainment and Interscope Records.

This duo with British singer Dido has been praised as one of the greatest rap songs – Rolling Stone ranked it 296th on the 500 greatest songs of all time.

It tells the dialog between Eminem’s obsessive fan Stan who writes several letters to his idol, gets increasingly angry until he committs suicide, killing his pregnant wife at the same time (murder suicide). Eminem finally replies to him, after his death, having heard of his tragic story in the news.

Stan – the music video

Eminem - Stan (Long Version) ft. Dido

Eminem – Stan – Song lyrics analysis, interpretation and meaning

On this analysis, we use the writing techniques taught in our scenario courses, Storytelling 1 and Storytelling 2.

Chorus  – Dido

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’ll all be gray,
but your picture on my wall
It reminds me
that it’s not so bad, it’s not so bad.

The song starts with the chorus. During the first seconds, we can hear a sound of rain, and the singer Dido performing the attenuated chorus which is about a feeling of sadness and despair in the morning, only contradicted by “your picture on the wall” that reminds her that “it’s not so bad“. A sound of storm can be heard, and the chorus gets repeated more clearly, its frequencies, more widely spread, overcome the sound of rain.

This opening sounds sad and romantic and seems to introduce a love story. It will not be the case.

Eminem's obsessed fan

Verse 1 – ‘Stan’

Dear Slim, I wrote you but you still ain’t calling
I left my cell, my pager, and my home phone at the bottom
I sent two letters back in autumn, you must not-a got ’em
There probably was a problem at the post office or something
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 everyday, 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

It starts with “Dear Slim”, so we can understand it’s a letter. Its author complains that his destinator, Slim Shady a.k.a. Eminem, didn’t reply to his last two letters. He underlines the fact that he leaves his contact at the end of the letter.

Beginning of Act I. So, we understand it’s a letter written by a fan to the singer. The structure is very interesting because once again, it’s a role-playing for Eminem: in Kim, he played at the same time his own role and the one of Kim. In 97′ Bonnie and Clyde, he makes voice effects to sound childish like Hailie. Now, he’s inverting the roles between himself and his audience. And whereas the 3 messages of Stan complain about a lack of empathy from Eminem, the structure of the song on the contrary reveals a big, generous capacity of empathy from Eminem to Stan.

The insistence to get a reply is the catalyst. The Goal of the Hero (= the fan) is to get a reply. The Antagonist will be Eminem, if he doesn’t reply. If he does, then Eminem will stand as a Helper of the Hero.

Stan writes a letter to Eminem

The fan asks Eminem for some news about his family, and announces that his girlfriend is pregnant. If he has a daughter, he says, he will name her Bonnie.

This name makes the connection with 97 Bonnie & Clyde.

It’s also the beginning of the development, Act II of this plot.

The fan expresses his sorrow towards Eminem’s uncle, named Ronnie, who killed himself because the woman he loved didn’t love him.

The story is true and particularly tragic. This uncle Ronnie was only 6 weeks older than Eminem and they grew up together. He killed himself in 1991. Another uncle of Eminem killed himself in 2004. There is modesty in the fact that Eminem speaks about his most painful autobiographic experiences indirectly through the fictitious voice of one of his fans…

The fan then compliments Eminem about some underground collaborations he did, tells him about how close he feels to him (“I got a room full of your posters and your pictures man”…), concludes his letter by asking again for a reply, and signs it: “This is Stan”.

This gives us the explanation for the song’s title.

It confirms that the Goal of the Hero is to get in touch with Eminem, to get a message from him.

Chorus  – Dido

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’ll all be gray, but your picture on my wall
It reminds me, that it’s not so bad, it’s not so bad.

Nothing to be noticed, apart from the fact that the line “it’s not so bad” sounds ironic: a fan who does not get answers from the star he loves, the story of a suicide, that may start to sound “so bad”. It will get worse.

Verse 2 – ‘Stan’

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 wanna 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 blistering cold for you,
four hours and you just said, “No.”
That’s pretty shitty man – you’re like his fucking 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 being 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 saying 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 growing 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

Stan starts his next letter by complaining that he did not receive any message back, and that Eminem refused to sign an autograph to his younger brother, aged 6yo, in the end of a concert. Stan finds it rude, because he and his brother waited for Eminem for 4h in the cold, and because at another occasion, in Denver, Eminem promised to Stan that he would answer back if Stan would write to him, and did not. Stan blames Eminem to be a liar.

Here, Eminem pushes things forward, and dare criticizing himself through the voice of a fictitious fan! That’s very original and audacious.

Stan compares his family situation to the one of Eminem: like him, he didn’t know his father who beated his mother. That’s why Stan can identify easily, he says, with the songs of Eminem, that he listens to when he’s depressed. He then confesses that he tatooed the name of Eminem on his chest and that, like Eminem, he scarifies himself. His girlfriend is even jealous “cause I talk about you 24/7”.

He feels indeed very close to his beloved star, because they share the same difficult childhood, he says.

The intense identification of Stan to Eminem sounds a bit scary, as if this man had no personal identity. It possibly reflects the feeling of Eminem himself about not having a stable, normal identity. And it makes easier our own identification to Stan and, through Stan, to Eminem.

Stan concludes: “You gotta call me man, I’ll be the biggest fan you’ll ever lose”.

This is the first hint of the suicidary intentions of Stan. The threat isn’t very clear yet, since the word “lose” is ambiguous. But the suspense gets a bit higher, since from now, we would like to know whether Eminem will reply to Stan or not, and if not, we wonder what Stan is able to do. The situation is a case of narrative information management effect.

Dido pregnant

Chorus  – Dido

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’ll all be gray, but your picture on my wall
It reminds me, that it’s not so bad, it’s not so bad.

Verse 3 – ‘Stan’

Dear Mister 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 sending you, I hope you hear it
I’m in the car right now, I’m doing 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 Tonight”
about that guy who coulda saved that other guy from drowning
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 drowning
Now it’s too late – I’m on a 1000 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 love 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; [*screaming*] Shut up bitch! I’m trying to talk!
Hey Slim, that’s my girlfriend screaming 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’m I supposed to send this shit out?
[car tires squeal] [CRASH]
[brief silence, then LOUD splash]

Stan sends a third message, and his tone has turned agressive: “Dear Mister I’m Too Good To Call Or Write My Fans”… Stan didn’t get any answer during the last 6 months and he is now very angry.

It’s the beginning of the Crisis: since Eminem didn’t reply to Stan, the Goal of Stan is impossible to reach and Stan needs to take his revenge. Eminem, who was his Goal, becomes his Antagonist.

Poster Eminem

Stan is sure that Eminem received his two previous letters. Now, that’s a recorded cassette he’s sending to Eminem.

This narrative element changes the genre of what we’re hearing. It’s not a written letter that’s read now, it’s a recording of the original voice of a guy who will die within a few seconds, which adds much to the emotional and dramatic tension.

Stan says he’s driving at 90 miles an hour on the freeway after having drunk a fifth of vodka. He evokes a song by Phil Collins, “About that guy who could have saved that other guy from drowning / But didn’t”, and says that him and Eminem are in the same situation: Eminem could have rescued him, and didn’t.

The situation gets very tense after this comparison. The fate of Stan becomes clear for himself: he is going to get drowned. Literally!

Stan expresses his bitterness, he says he took tranquilizers and feels drowsy…

From the general knowledge of the audience, we know that tranquilizers and vodka are not a good mix at the wheel. This increases danger, thus tension.

Then Stan declares he “ripped all of your pictures off the wall” and wishes that Eminem will suffer from not having paid attention to him. At this moment, Stan gets interrupted – we can hear a woman’s voice screaming in the background – and Stan explains: it’s his girlfriend locked in the trunk, “But I didn’t slit her throat, I just tied her up, see I ain’t like you”…

The rest of Stan’s messages was underlining his strong identification to Eminem. Now, he denies it.

We are entering the Act III and the crisis begins.

Yet, the parallel between this element and the situation of “97′ Bonnie and Clyde” and “Kim” is obvious.

The woman’s screamings continue, Stan states he almost reached the bridge, and at the last moment, he realizes that he will not be able to send the recording of his message to Eminem…

He’s right: it’s actually impossible that Eminem could hear Stan’s message and re-use it in his song. Dramatic irony… This impossibility cancels the effect of realism and reminds the audience that it is only a song…

We can then hear Stan’s car braking heavily, then car breaking a barrier, the woman screams even more, then two seconds later, the car makes a big splash into the water and the voice and screamings stop.

That’s the climax, the moment when the audience knows about the result of all the action. In this case, the result is extremely negative for the Hero: not only he didn’t get the reply he expected from Eminem, but also his despair led him to suicide: it could not be worse.

Like in the 2 other songs, the background sounds make a very realistic effect. We feel like in a cinema theater.

Chorus  – Dido

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’ll all be gray, but your picture on my wall
It reminds me, that it’s not so bad, it’s not so bad.

Now, the line “It’s not so bad” sounds very ironic, because the situation reached a very tragic point: Stan, his girlfriend, and their baby, just died. It’s actually very bad on the contrary!!

Verse 4 – Eminem

Dear Stan, I meant to write you sooner but I’ve 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 the Starter cap
I’m sorry I didn’t see you at the show, I musta 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 clowning dogg,
c’mon – how fucked up is you?
You got some issues Stan, I think you need some counseling
to help your ass from bouncing 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 doing 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

We hear a new letter, this time it’s Eminem, who finally answers: “Dear Stan…”

Eminem apologizes for his late reply and asks for some news about the pregnancy of Stan’s girlfriend.

This sounds even more tragic. We may think that if Eminem had replied earlier, Stan wouldn’t have killed himself and his girlfriend and baby… This “too late” situation is a classic element of tragedy.

Since the climax already took place, we could have thought the story – and the song – was over. But no – wrong track – so this reply from Eminem sounds like a big surprise.

This second level of reality makes the song a complex story.

Eminem reply letter

Eminem sends an autograph for Stan’s younger brother.

Same remark: it’s too late now, as Stan previously noticed… Tragic irony!

Then Eminem says he’s worried about Stan’s balance, he suggests Stan would need some counseling and to have a better relationship with his girlfriend and to stop having crazy behaviors.

Same remark. The whole letter by Eminem is written to underline the “it’s too late” aspect of the situation.

Between the lines, we can be touched here by the sincerity of Eminem, who is actually speaking to himself with much modesty through the character of Stan. It’s actually Eminem who has a problem with his girlfriend, who is suicidal, who would need counseling, who has crazy behaviors.

Eminem compares the case of Stan to a very similar story he saw in the news, the story of a guy who drove over a bridge with his pregnant girlfriend in the trunk, and Eminem finally concludes: “his name was… it was you”.

This last piece of information contradicts all of the Eminem letter: it was a wrong track, Eminem knew from the very beginning that when he replied to him, Stan was already dead. This second element of absurdity, of impossibility, surprisingly does not change anything to the emotional impact of the song, on the contrary it shocks us even more by being simultaneously a very realistic and very impossible story.

Dramatic synthesis

How many plots in this song?

There is one main plot made of 3 messages that tell the story of Stan, a fan of Eminem, who writes to his idol in vain until he’s despaired enough to commit suicide and kill his pregnant girlfriend. Each message is a verse. Between verses we find back the same chorus that started the song.

When Eminem finally replies to Stan, it’s too late (see the outline next page). We can say this part is like a comment between brackets after the main plot, or that it is another plot put in a factorial/embedded structure within the end of the main plot.

Eminem’s reply is like a comment on the story from outside the story. When he starts replying, he knows that the plot of Stan is over already. He can just put the final point on Stan’s last unfinished words.

How many actantial characters in this plot?

(See our article about Vladimir Propp to know about what actantial means.)

There are only 2 actantial characters:

  • The Hero: Stan, a fan of Eminem. Stan wants a reply from Eminem.
  • The Antagonist: Eminem, as he does not give Stan the reply he was seeking for – or gives it when it’s already too late.

13 other characters are mentioned in the song:

  • Stan’s father and mother. Stan tells about them, but they can not do anything to stop or encourage Stan in his goals.
  • Eminem’s father and mother. Same remark.
  • Eminem’s uncle, Ronnie. Stan evokes him. But Ronnie is dead and does not know anything about Stan. He’s not actantial.
  • Eminem’s girlfriend and daughter. Stan asks his idol for some news about them, but that doesn’t change anything to his storyline.
  • Eminem’s collaborators in rap – Skam and Rawkus. Stan says he likes what Eminem did with them. They don’t play any active role.
  • Stan’s younger brother, Matthew. Stan asks Eminem an autograph for Matthew, that Eminem refused to give at the end of a concert. Matthew is not an actantial character, because he doesn’t play an active role to encourage, help, or contradict Stan.
  • Stan’s pregnant girlfriend, locked in the trunk of the car. She doesn’t play an actantial role, since she cannot do anything to stop Stan from killing himself and her. Her presence, her screams, and her death, play an emotional role.
  • The 2 characters of the song by Phil Collins. They are used as comparison points.

This analysis is now over.

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