How Pop Music Fandom Became Sports, Politics, Religion and All-Out War
In October, with “Chromatica” having registered as a modest hit, Grande’s own new album, “Positions,” leaked online before its official release. Cordero, who liked Grande well enough but found her new music to be lacking, shared a link to the unreleased songs, much to the consternation of Grande fans, who worried that the bootlegged versions would damage the singer’s commercial prospects.
Taking on the role of volunteer internet detectives, Grande fans proceeded to spend days playing Whac-a-Mole by flagging links to the unauthorized album as they proliferated across the internet. But Cordero, bored and sensing their agita, decided to bait them even further by tweeting — falsely — that he’d subsequently been fined $150,000 by Grande’s label for his role in spreading the leak. “is there any way I can get out of this,” he wrote. “I’m so scared.” He even shared a picture of himself crying.
“They were rejoicing,” Cordero recalled giddily of the Grande fans he’d fooled, who spread the word far and wide that the leaker — a Gaga lover, no less — was being punished. “Sorry but I feel no sympathy,” one Grande supporter wrote on Reddit. “Charge him, put him in jail. you can’t leak an album by the world’s biggest pop star and expect no consequences.”
This was pop fandom in 2020: competitive, arcane, sales-obsessed, sometimes pointless, chaotic, adversarial, amusing and a little frightening — all happening almost entirely online. While music has long been intertwined with internet communities and the rise of social networks, a growing faction of the most vocal and dedicated pop enthusiasts have embraced the term “stan” — taken from the 20-year-old Eminem song about a superfan turned homicidal stalker — and are redefining what it means to love an artist.
On what is known as Stan Twitter — and its offshoots on Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Tumblr and various message boards — these devotees compare No. 1s and streaming statistics like sports fans do batting averages, championship wins and shooting percentages. They pledge allegiance to their favorites like the most rabid political partisans or religious followers. They organize to win awards show polls, boost sales and raise money like grass roots activists. And they band together to pester — or harass, and even dox — those who may dare to slight the stars they have chosen to align themselves with.