It’s Thursday and it’s midday, and time once again to bring you a look back at another huge hit from the UK charts at the dawn of the new millennium in The Story of Pop: 2000. This week: a groundbreaking chart topper from one of the most successful rap artists ever…
For some reason or another, we completely overlooked writing about Marshall Bruce Mathers III – better known of course as Eminem – on The Story of Pop: 1999. That was the year after all, where he was launched to the world at large, as the protege of Dr. Dre. But 2000 was arguably the year he cemented himself as more than a passing one album wonder.
Back in July, ‘The Real Slim Shady’, the first single off his third album The Marshall Mathers LP, shot straight to number one in the UK, with the album itself becoming the fastest selling by a rap artist in chart history when it also topped the long player listings. The album was undoubtedly a much darker, some might say angrier sounding effort than his previous efforts.
It was also the first sign that beneath the shock and controversy factor that surrounded him – his on-off marriage to ex-wife Kim Scott, various dabblings with the law and addiction to numerous substances – that there was something approaching genius in the midst of it all. And nowhere was this more evident than on the album’s third single.
Produced by legendary hip hop titan The 45 King, ‘Stan’ saw Eminem rap from two perspectives, that of the song’s title character, a fan of his who writes to him over the course of several letters, declaring how big a fan he is over the first three verses, but when said letters go unanswered, promptly flies off the handle and locks his pregnant girlfriend in the boot of his car which he then drink drives off a bridge into a river.
The song ends with Eminem finally responding to Stan’s letters a few months later, trying to reason with him as he gets more obsessive, only to realise that he is too late in doing so. It’s subject matter was undoubtedly dark, but the delivery and the pace and flow of the track were quite simply unlike anything that had been heard on a rap or Eminem record to that point.
And then of course there was the small matter of the haunting sampled chorus from ‘Thank You’, a track by then unknown British singer songwriter Dido, which had been discovered from the soundtrack of the hit film Sliding Doors a couple of years previously. She had been touring the States extensively, where she had released her first album No Angel in 1999 before it even came out here in the UK.
All these elements combined to make ‘Stan’ unquestionably – and still to this day – one of the all time greatest rap records ever recorded. The British public seemed to agree too; it became Eminem’s second number one hit of 2000, and was the sixth best seller of the year in the UK. Over the next 12 months, as a result of her feature on the track, Dido went onto become one of the biggest female solo artists in the world of the early 00s.
There are not many artists we’ve met on this series who are still actively recording to this day and hold the same relevance they did back at the turn of the millennium. But Eminem is one of them. And we would argue that ‘Stan’ is the reason he’s had the career he’s enjoyed since in the last two decades, mainly because of the impact this single had.
Don’t forget to follow our brand new playlist on Spotify – updated weekly so you never miss a song from the story of pop in 2000. And you can leave your memories of the songs below in the comments or Tweet us, using the hashtag #StoryofPop2000.
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