In this new multi-part series, I shall examine a topic I (reluctantly) know quite a bit about: the life of a stan. What is a stan? Well, let us look to Urban Dictionary for a concise definition:
A crazed and or obsessed fan. The term comes from the song Stan by Eminem. The term Stan is used to describe a fan who goes to great lengths to obsess over a celebrity.
Whatever. Thats good enough. In this first installment I will dive into my initial exposure to the stan life during the great bubblegum pop explosion of the late 90s.
It seemed like a good idea at the time.It started out so simply. The year was 1998. I was a freshman in college. I was home on winter break and striding purposefully towards the downtown Chicago office building where I was working for that month, listening to my walkman. Yes, of course I owned a CD walkman, but you couldn’t listen to the radio on those and I was still in that horrible phase where I found morning radio shows entertaining. Also, you could totally still carry cassette players in public without looking ridiculous back then.
Anyhoo, I was listening to B96 (my Chicago people know what thats all about) and then without warning, I heard it: the song that would change my life.
Lets rewind a bit: I was never a young fangirl. I grew up listening to whatever music my parents were listening to (mom had a almost unhealthy Luther Vandross and Michael Jackson addiction), but otherwise I had very little interest in music as a child. Eventually we got MTV and I became obsessed with staring at it for hours, but back then MTV was just kinda a hodge podge of randomness. I am the right age to have liked New Kids on the Block but I just didn’t care about them. One Christmas, I begged my mother to get me a Wilson Phillips cassette single to go in my stocking. She bought me a New Kids on the Block tape.
WHAT THE F*CK MOM (to this day she insists that I asked for it. She is so very wrong.)
It didn’t turn me into a fan, even if I did eventually develop a kindness for the song “Tonight”. To this day its the only NKOTB song I have ever really liked. It had these fake orchestra parts and I used to try to play my recorder along with it/use said recorder to conduct the orchestra. Don’t judge me, I was in the 5th grade. And weird.
Anyway, the point of this story is that I was never into the boyband thing when it was appropriate for me to be so. By the time I was 13 my favorite band was Aerosmith. My HS years were spent listening to angsty alternative rock music (while wearing flannel) and wishing I was Gwen Stefani (thankfully I’ve grown out of the flannel AND worshiping Gwen. Girl get a grip). My first semester of college found me without clear musical allegiances. I knew that boy bands existed, like the Backstreet Boys, but I wasn’t overly interested.
Let us return to that early winter morning. The song: “Tearing Up My Heart” by *NSYNC. This was before the days where one could immediately look to the internet to find a ton of info about music groups. Luckily, the radio station had mentioned the artist…and I bought the tape (yes, the tape. I was a broke college student and CDs were expensive. I reserved CD purchases for things I was sure I was going to love) on the way home from work that day.
I instantly became obsessed with all things *NSYNC. My mom allowed me to order their concert on PPV when I was home again for spring break, I argued with girls about their clear superiority over other groups like the Backstreet Boys*, I ordered posters on Yahoo! Auctions, I went to their concerts, read shitty Angelfire fansites, joined the hottest mess of a online message board: JJB (all my old schoolers know what thats about), and…did this to my dorm room
After they settled their lawsuit struggles, being an *NSYNC stan was easy and almost respectable. They sold millions of records (their second album went Diamond. Your fave will never.), toured the world, and just basically dominated the pop scene. They banged fellow stars of the day (Justin: Britney. JC:…Tara Reid…), appeared in movies (the fact that Justin was ever able to get an acting job after his first go in Model Behavior is just…), launched clothing lines (yes, I bought a shitty Fu Man Skeeto t-shirt. I’m not proud of it. At all), and were loved by all.
And then this shit happened
Any *NSYNC fan who was paying attention knew the writing was on the wall when “Gone” came out. While gathering info for this very post I listened to this song for the first time in years and…I am unconvinced that any of the other members actually sang on this song. I no longer have a physical copy of this cd, but I’d love to look at the liner notes to see if they even tried to pretend that anyone else sang on this track. The lead background vocals are all Justin. This song was the beginning of the end for *NSYNC…and the beginning of my intense dislike of Justin Timberlake. I had always just barely tolerated him, but this was truly the end of us. And the group.
We all know what happened next. The great “hiatus” began. Justin released his first (mediocre IMO) solo cd, and then another. JC released a excellent solo album that was largely ignored. Lance tried to go to space and then came out of the closet. Joey had a few small parts in movies, did “Dancing with the Stars” and then…ended up having the career that he probably would have had had he never been in *NSYNC, doing hosting gigs on tv and in Vegas. And Chris. Well lets be honest. I didn’t care about Chris when he was IN the group. I can’t be arsed to go digging under whatever rock he lives under now. I vaguely remember Chris being somehow involved in a VH1 show about starting a “man band” but a stan heart can only take so much embarrassment and that was was the limit.
I use “stan* to describe my feeling about *NSYNC but, the term definitely was not in use at the time. Eminem’s song didn’t come out til 2000 and I’d imagine that the term came into popular use during a time when I had mostly checked out of the pop scene, circa the late 2000s. Boybands went out of favor, and female solo singers began to dominate, I decided to try to be an adult.It happens.
Today, I feel like stanning garners a lot of attention as a mean-spirited pastime aided by, like all things that are in equal parts awesome and horrible, the internet.
And thats where we’ll go next.
But first, my final rundown on the bubblegum pop era:
My favorite boyband: *NSYNC…DUH
My favorite boyband member: Joey. Oh god how I loved Joey.
Best song of the boyband era: Bye Bye Bye – *NSYNC
Best non *NSYNC song of the boyband era: The Call – Backstreet Boys
Best performance of anyone ever on a awards show in the history of award shows: *NSYNC at the 2000 MTV VMAs
And finally, a poll
Results to be announced at the end of the next post. In the spirit of all things obsessive fan based, multiple votes are allowed.
* In retrospect, although *NSYNC was the better band in terms of writing, dancing, and looks…BSB’s music holds up better in the long run. HMPH