The Madonna Timeline: Song #33 – ‘Sooner or Later’ – Summer 1990

{Note: The Madonna Timeline is an ongoing feature, where I put the iPod on shuffle, and write a little anecdote on whatever was going on in my life when that Madonna song was released and/or came to prominence in my mind.}

Sooner or later you’re gonna be mine,
Sooner or later you’re gonna be fine,
Baby it’s time that you faced it
I always get my man.

It is the ultimate call of the siren. A prediction, a demand, a hope – all in the subtle jazz shadings of a Sondheim song. ‘Sooner or Later’ is the next iPod selection, seductively vamping along from its opening coos to its climaxing almost-growls, and Madonna delivers a sparkling aural gem. Restrained, yet powerful, her slightly-girlish vocals belie a steely strength. That confidence, that determination, that unfailing belief in her own prowess and power of attraction – that was something I never had. Certainly not in 1990.

To be honest, the hunt for a man was the last thing on my fourteen-year-old mind. I was too consumed with the drama of my friends, trying to fit in to my first year of high school. The one thing the song did lend me was a belief in oneself – and if Madonna could will her want into being simply by using a few declarative come-ons, surely I could put one of Mr. Rosmarino’s math proofs on the chalkboard and talk my way through it.

I didn’t have a goal at the time – it was enough just to make it through an average school day – but songs like this – and most of them by Madonna – gave me a bit of purpose. It marked the beginning of a drive and ambition to not be ignored.

Sooner or later you’re gonna decide,
Sooner or later there’s nowhere to hide,
Baby it’s time so why waste it in chatter?
Let’s settle the matter,
Baby you’re mine on a platter
I always get my man.

‘Sooner or Later’ was also nominated for a Best Song Oscar (fortuitous timing today), which it won – and more importantly which meant that Madonna would perform the song on the Oscar telecast. I missed the show that year (see, I wasn’t always that gay), but made sure to see it a few years later when my Madonna obsession began to rage. (Most of the performance was captured on a VHS Oscar Retrospective.) Of course it’s now on YouTube, and we get to see the telescopic opening, as well as the very best ending and exit vamp in Oscar history.

Early on, the camera goes in for a tight close-up as Madonna’s gloved hand trembles in the spotlight – one of the first glimpses we get of her nervousness for some performances, and a compelling peek of her as a mortal being. It is an endearing moment – here is the woman who at that point was one of the most famous and successful of all time, at arguably the height of her power and adulation – playing to a house of jaded actors who had little to no respect for her, and she went for it. That takes balls. That takes determination. That takes a belief in oneself and a disregard for the opinions of those who would never like her. In my Freshman year of high school, those were attributes that I sorely lacked.

But if you insist, babe,
The challenge delights me,
The more you resist, babe,
The more it excites me
And no one I’ve kissed babe,
Ever fights me again.

I felt the need to don perfectly preppy garb in an effort to win the affection and approval of my fellow students. I looked interested in what every teacher had to say, finishing all my homework on time and studying for every test in an effort to please all the school faculty. I did everything my parents asked and recommended, starting music lessons and keeping score for the girls basketball team to round out my education with extracurricular activities. I did it all without the inner-confidence that Madonna exuded, shaky hand and all, and I did it well. It just happened that none of it made me particularly happy or content. But that’s another story for another song.

If you’re on my list it’s just a question of when…
When I get a yen, then baby amen,
I’m counting to ten, and then…

As far as the Oscar show goes, it is one of her best live performances ever – including tours and award shows – and she sounds incredible. Not that it was without its quirks and foibles – at one point near the end one of her earrings falls off – a cluster of diamonds costing ten times what my house is worth – and gets lodged in a lock of platinum blonde hair. It stays there magically, until she bows her head as the song ends. Plucking it from her tresses, she tosses it into the orchestra pit. That’s star power, that’s grit, that’s Madonna.

I’m gonna love you like nothing you’ve known,
I’m gonna love you when you’re all alone.
Sooner is better than later but lover,
I’ll hover, I’ll plan…

Seriously, watch that Oscar performance ending and tell me you don’t love her.

This time I’m not only getting, I’m holding my man.
Song #33: ‘Sooner or Later’ – Summer 1990
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