My Favorite’s of All Time #7: N.E.R.D.’s ‘Sooner or Later’

My introduction to N.E.R.D.’s music came during a very unsavory time in my life that I’ll save for a memoir (I can’t put all my trauma in one place lol), but “Sooner or Later” has become a pretty important song in my life for other traumatic reasons that I’m more comfortable sharing lol. I don’t remember if I’ve mentioned my college crush yet on thursday email, but I started liking this person my second year of college. One day, I was sitting outside of my dorm room with some friends and an acquaintance, when said acquaintance started talking about how one of my friends was caught dancing with my crush (who no one knew was my crush at the time) at a party IN FRONT of the girl my crush was going out with at the time. There were two realizations that happened during this moment. 1) my crush was not single and that HURT, and 2) my unsingle crush was dancing with one of my CLOSE FRIENDS at a party and that hurt even more. I excused myself because I was about to burst into tears (lol), and I went into my room. Immediately I needed something to clear my mind to. Two seconds later, I was jumping around my room and pounding my fists on my bed in a mess of tears to “Sooner or Later.”

I bet you would’ve paid up all your cash down
To not make a sound
But everyone knows now
It all comes crashing down
It’s over, leave it
It’s over, leave it
It’s over, leave it
It’s over, leave it
It’s over, leave it

Sooner or later, it all comes crashing down
Crashing down
When everyone’s around

The song itself is about the inevitability of shitty moments in life. One day you’re on top of the world, and the next moment, you’re hitting the ground HARD. And those falls from grace are some of the most difficult and lonely experiences we ever have to go through as people. And I was dealing with a lot of them my sophomore year. And I’ve talked pretty extensively about that year before. Academically, I was doing worse than I ever have in my life; I was in between friend groups – I didn’t fit into my old one anymore, and I was feeling a little uneasy in my new one. I was EXHAUSTED because I wasn’t sleeping well, and I was treating my body like trash. And the thing about that year is that there were moments of beauty in between. So when things starting “crashing down,” they CRASHED. I’d never experienced feelings like that before, and I didn’t know what to do.

I had a similar (but not as extreme) moment of this in the months between July 2019 and March 2020 (so basically up until recently lol). Despite some really great moments, I was feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. There was very rarely a moment of comfort because as soon as I decided I could get cozy, I was hit very hard in the face. The best way I can describe it is that it felt like I was in a sitcom – or the “cosmic joke” Pharrell mentions in the song – where there was NO WAY I was living the way I was living, and if I was, someone HAD to be making a profit. Because ain’t no WAY I was living like that for no reason lol. So music, as always, was my escape in both of those moments. I held very tightly to the folks that have been holding me and my ears down for years. And N.E.R.D. – despite how messy my introduction to them was lol – has been one of the those groups that I’ve taken with me in my ups and downs.

And I think the beautiful part of “Sooner or Later” is the fade out at the end. There’s no abrupt ending to let you know how the song really ends. The instrumental just goes until you can’t hear it anymore. And I think that’s a perfect metaphor for life? You have those trash moments, but they don’t last forever, and we have no way of knowing what comes after it. Your only choice is to keep going to find out. And after punching the air and crying for 6 minutes, there’s something really cathartic about that. It’s almost a spiritual experience.

I went back and watched the video for “Sooner or Later” before writing this, and it’s so interesting how similar of a time we’re in to when N.E.R.D. put this masterpiece together. The video begins with the uncertainty and chaos of an (American) economy and social structure in the trenches. Which uh…same??? I mean, we’re pretty much in that same boat right now. All it takes is one moment to disrupt everything that we’ve considered to be normal. As the video progresses, though, things get better, and the folks in the video are back on top. And while what I’m about to say is a terrible watering down of our current situation, I do think it’s helpful to be a little optimistic? Just a smidge. We have no way of knowing what’s going to happen in the next couple of days, let alone months! We find out new things about the Rona everyday. But we can’t ignore how resilient we are as people, especially when we come together. The way folks have come together to support each other has been wonderful to see (despite some folks actively doing the opposite), and I think it’s important to hold on to that as well. We don’t know when things will get better, but they will. Of course, we need moments to really be intentional about living in the now and taking care of ourselves and each other right now, but what we set out now, will allow for us a better future. “Sooner or Later” is just as much about learning to let go as it is learning how to keep ourselves going enough to see the sunshine in the future.

And that’s what makes “Sooner or Later” one of my favorites of all time!

here’s something else you might like:

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