Being a ‘Stan‘ (‘a “Stan” is an overzealous maniacal fan for any celebrity or athlete: A crazed and or obsessed fan, the term Stan is used to describe a fan who goes to great lengths to obsess over a celebrity‘) is a more prevalent social condition today than it ever has been previously. Subscribing to this way of delusional obsessive fandom is a way of life made possible by the Internet, and particularly by the often extremely misused tools of social media, which serve as breeding grounds for like-minded ‘Stans‘ to find one another through dedicated artist fan ‘groups’ or ‘pages’, where ‘Stans‘ will and can converse to feed their obsessions and further the idolised status they gift the particular artist by placing them on a godlike mental pedestal.
With being a ‘Stan‘, one is predisposed to love what they do unconditionally, and blast anyone who says otherwise of their favoured artist, as well as savagely launching against anyone (namely other artists) who have even the slightest pinch of tension between them and said favoured artist.
While dedicating so much of one’s love and admiration to a chosen artist can serve to fulfil a human being and provide them with much to ruminate on and hence keep our ever hungry and ever searching brains occupied, it is not always a positive notion or venture for one to endure. I draw a similarity to it with that of the warning message betting companies are implored to display in their incessant and unrelenting adverts: ‘When the fun stops, stop‘.
The reasoning for this similarity being drawn may have you reading with a quizzed expression furnishing your face, and rightly so – but fear not, allow me to straighten and relax your tense brows as I explain such cogitation through the magic of a hypothetical:
Let’s say you ((figuratively) yes, you, reader) are a STAN of xxxx, and a proud Stan at that!
xxxx releases a new project, after a few years of quiet following what is a glistening discography to rival the best of them – many even believe records from this discography make up large chunks of what’s considered ‘the best of them’. The record is truly nowhere near the very high standard xxxx has set and it serves only to tarnish xxxx’s legacy and dampen their otherwise highly commendable discography. You however, are, as the title of the post reads, blinded by your fandom: You were so excited by the announcement that xxxx even had a new album, that your mental facility for musical judgement goes out the window altogether when it comes to the new record and you hail it just as you have hailed the many worthy previous releases. Simply (and harshly) put, you are not big enough to realise the truth – it would hurt your pride and warped sense of what is good and bad to admit there is anything wrong with the record, let alone that it is a BAD PROJECT.
Here is where we link back to the beginning of the post, and that peskily massive chunk of how you spend your life – social media: In your various xxxx fan groups, all over your personal facebook and your xxxx dedicated twitter accounts, you have been constantly talking up the album since hearing of it’s inception. You have taken a pre-emptive Stan-ce (sorry I had to), that it was going to be a great record purely because it is an xxxx record, and they can in your eyes do no wrong. How would it look if you were to suddenly elicit a fierce u-turn and write that painful status update / tweet admitting defeat? How could you possibly live with yourself – what is the world coming to?? How can I have doubted the talent of xxxx?? WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?! You are utterly bewildered by seeing honest opinions from those you thought were loyal and faithful within your fan groups; people stating that as much as they love xxxx, this project is ‘trash’ (as the youth of today love to spout). You are becoming the laughing stock of multiple twitter timelines that get a kick out of seeing through your delusional defence of this awful project and make yourself appear a complete fool.
Except there’s one problem; they’re right. This problem gets multiplied for you because you’ve taken such a stern footing, because of the online documented evidence of vicious defence so how can you admit you’re wrong – you’re not, you can’t be; the new xxxx project HAS to be as good as I think or that means I’m an idiot?? Your fragile ego could not take such substantial bruising and instead you dig your heels in further. You reassure yourself that it is a damn good album, possibly even better than the highly acclaimed third album that brought xxxx his mass appeal, and subsequently that you’re still the genius you’ve always known you are, but the rest of the world are complete morons.
By this point, you have absolutely forgotten the small-print on the betting adverts – ‘When the fun stops, stop’ as the fun stopped a good few months ago. Is having to tip-toe around the social media destinations you used to love fun?? Is getting laughed at and being mistaken for expatiating sarcasm for merely suggesting lightly the album’s not as bad as everyone is making out fun?? You should have used what you had left of the reasonable faction of your brain, and not ended up as the metaphorical equivalent of Dave from down the road who squanders every penny he struggles to get, cause no-one trusts him anymore, at the bookies as he somehow still convinces himself everytime that THIS BET, is gonna be the one to make him rich. ‘Nah those previous 7964 bets were just unlucky but it hasn’t deterred me, I still know what I’m doing – this is the one’.
Of course this is a dramatised and exaggerated hypothetical, but it is so for good effect, as it sets the scene for the point of this post, and putting ‘Stanning’ on trial, well (at least I hope it does).
Concluding the hypothetical and bringing this outlined phenomenon into the real world, it is perhaps very fitting that being a ‘Stan‘ is the subject of this piece, as for one (if somehow you didn’t know this) the term ‘Stan‘ referring to a obsessive fandom was literally created by the picturesque, extreme song called ‘Stan‘ about a post-delusional unhealthily obsessed fan, by Eminem. Secondly, and neatly tying these aspects together like the clasping of your left and right hands, I bring this notion of when being a ‘Stan‘ resides in the negative of fandom into real life by highlighting Eminem‘s two most recent albums ‘Revival‘ and ‘Kamikaze‘.
First of let me state that for a long while I considered myself a huge Eminem Stan; he was the first rapper I listened to and the reason I fell in love with hip-hop. ‘The Eminem Show‘ is immortalised and untouchable in my mind and Em nurtured my blossoming love of English by showing me that ‘rap is poetry’ in such an incredible way. Whereas many people (foolishly) assert he hasn’t done anything worthwhile since 2004’s ‘Encore‘, I disagree as although I don’t have much time for ‘Relapse‘ & ‘Recovery‘ over all (can’t deny both spawned a few enjoyable numbers though) I champion the ‘Bad Meets Evil‘ album, loved the ‘Marshall Mathers LP 2‘ and found the original content littered on compilation project ‘Shady XV‘ very worthwhile.
However, like with my approach towards ‘Relapse‘ & ‘Recovery‘ I realised I am in no way a ‘Stan‘ in the true nature of the beast here, and despite my faith not being wholly knocked by those projects and loving more recent work, ‘Revival‘ is a no-no in my book. Again, it has it’s moments and I find the widespread trolling of it largely uninformed and stupid – it’s a bad album firstly cause his discography is SO GOOD, and although the topics addressed are exactly what I would have expected (Em at this point is a mature guy, he’s simply not the same angry at the world, drug-addled bleach blonde hair “with some peroxide, reachin’ for a t-shirt to wear” dude he was and naturally with growing up your views change etc., so the album content made perfect sense to me. The execution did not, and let’s not even talk about the features, which a younger Em would have had a field day mocking a rapper of his size embellishing their project with such whack features. ‘Kamikaze‘ serves as basically an apology album, as Em tries to revert to his fashion of mocking any and everything he see’s fit (including ‘Revival‘) – which is EXACTLY what people wanted following ‘Revival‘; the sheer amount of times I’ve heard ‘we want the old Em’, ffs. Yet guess what? The popular opinion is to state ‘man he’s washed up, he just sounds like an angry old guy’ – what did you expect?! and guess what ‘Stan‘ society thinks of it – they LOVE it!
But of course, the enormous congregation of ‘Stans‘ wouldn’t hear any of the ‘Revival‘ & ‘Kamikaze‘ rubbish talk and in their eyes it is a commendable body of work and anyone who says otherwise is just a hater, man – you’re not a real Em fan if you don’t like this, man. Widening the debate, let’s bring in possibly the most controversial hip-hop artist of the past two decades – strolling onto center stage to snatch the mic from me, or Em (picture the scene of this ridiculous, fantastical late night chat show debate where ‘Stanning‘ is being held on trial) say something unforgettable like he’s a messiah, right on time is Mr. Kanye West.
Kanye (another artist I have ‘stanned’ and PROUDLY SO!!) has made it A LOT harder for his hardcore constituency of superfans to remain so, most recently (there is a wealth of incidents to pick from but this post is already longer than intended and I’ve got stuff to do so I’ll try wrap this up!) his comments on TMZ – of all fucking places – proclaiming that ‘slavery was a choice‘. Ooh dear, I think honestly that was not his intention to state that so brashly and there was a genuine point to his argument but man he got derided for that. Polarising as it was for many featherweight Yeezus fans, ‘Stan‘ central knew at this point they were too invested to turn around and put their hands up, admitting defeat to their internet communities, their friends and most of all themselves. That would mean crushing the narrative of Kanye being a genius they have lived by for sooo long and ultimately causing a string of internal questioning that does not end well. So they take it in their stride and valiantly defend Mr. West – besides “name one genius that ain’t crazy“, right? Also, on the other side of the fence, those who situate themselves either as peaceful non-fans, or avid haters are only encouraged by such fierce ‘Stanning‘ to embed themselves in the narrative of hating whichever artist, creating more of a divide between audiences and maybe making it harder for someone to negotiate a middle-ground appreciation (‘yeah I like some of his stuff but didn’t care for THAT release’), you are either all-in or all-out.
This whole most-recent Kanye debacle raised the question for a lot of fans about separating the art from the artist, clearly indicating many still enjoyed Kanye’s music but found him a disreputable character (to put it nicely). Which raises for me a quick comparison of the two Standom issues being trialled here – the Eminem ‘issue’ is purely musical and focuses on new work not hitting the incredibly high standards he has set throughout his career whereas with Kanye people were trying to justify still ‘being able to’ like the music without liking the artist – the Kanye ‘issue’ is not remotely musical – his discography is free from any blemishes; anyone who disagrees knows where the door is and can leave the studio at once, please.
In conclusion; although ignorance is bliss, it is still ignorance. That’s not to say being a ‘Stan‘ is always unhealthy and to be avoided as I can concur from my years of idolisation it can be quite fun – the music seems to mean a lot more to you and connecting with a lot of like-minded fans can make for engaging discussions about every goddamn lyric for example, meaning you are soaking up as much information about said artist as ya can and can exist in a society of coalescent appreciation which is extremely gratifying. However, as I implored earlier on – ‘when the fun stops, stop‘! I think the biggest problem I have with ‘Stans‘ (either side of this obsessive fandom) is how much it muddies the waters of reasoning, potentially leading to good music being ridiculed purely because it doesn’t fit your agenda to like it – popstar fans are the WORST for this, fyi. There is so much more to life than believing your favourite artist is a godlike entity (like having a dog – so much joy can a little ball of fluff bring) and you leave room for appreciation of other artists that perhaps are better at a certain aspect of their music than said artist, so instead of having your plate dominated by a massive portion of beans, you get an array of fish, chips, beans, peas, assorted veg – the point is you are not limiting yourself, rather you are exposing yourself to unlimited possibilities of musical talent which are out there just waiting for your deserving attention, and they are extremely rewarding.
Thank you and well done, for slogging through – sorry this turned out to be an essay, I didn’t intend it – honest!