Along with "Lose Yourself," "Stan" is often mentioned as the best Eminem track of all time. No complaints here … both are great. “Lose Yourself” was my favorite, but my son said something interesting about it once, that of course it was my favorite, because it was essentially a rock song. I took what he said to mean that it had a familiar feel to it, at least for middle-aged rock and roll fans like myself. I didn’t have any useful reply … I still think it’s a great song, as does my son … but I do agree that one of the ways “Lose Yourself” works is in the “I know you don’t like rap, but you’ll like this” kind of way.
My son said “Stan” was the better track. And again, I have no complaints … they’re both “best.” But listening to it again while writing this post, I realized that “Stan” is also a track that works for people who “don’t like rap.” It’s barely a rap song at all, barely a hip-hop song at all. It’s a story-song, told and performed with skillful insight, taking on the relationship between an artist and his fans and offering no easy answers, no answers at all, really. Toss in the use of Dido, who had appeared on a Lilith Fair tour, and you have the recipe for a crossover success.
Despite the rock guitar and singing chorus, “Lose Yourself” is clearly more of a rap song than is “Stan.” Eminem is a complex artist, and you can’t reduce him to one thing, so no single song is going to cover everything the artist does. But one of Eminem’s strongest points are his rhymes, which would get in the way in “Stan.” It’s hard to transcribe the lyrics of “Lose Yourself” because the rhyming is intricate … you can force the layout to put the rhymes at the end of lines, but Eminem’s flow gives the lie to such an easy arrangement:
Snap back to reality, Oh
there goes gravity Oh,
there goes Rabbit, he
choked He's so mad, but he
won't give up that Easy, no
He won't have it, he
knows his whole back's to these
ropes It don't matter, he's dope
He knows that, but he's broke
Still, that “Stan” lacks this kind of wordplay takes nothing away from the intensely growing horror of the tale told in “Stan.” Perhaps it is best just to note that both songs are terrific examples of Eminem’s excellence.
Here’s “Lose Yourself”: