Don't Tell Me (Madonna song)

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"Don't Tell Me"
Single by Madonna
from the album Music
B-side "Cyber-Raga"
Released November 21, 2000
Format CD single, Maxi single, Cassette single, 7", 12"
Recorded 1999
Genre Country pop, electronica
Length 4:40
  • Madonna
  • Mirwais Ahmadzaï
Madonna singles chronology
"Don't Tell Me"
"What It Feels Like for a Girl"

"Don't Tell Me" is a song by American singer-songwriter Madonna. It was released as the second single from her eighth studio album Music on November 21, 2000 by Maverick Records.

It received positive reviews from music critics, who cited the song as the highlight of the album and praised Madonna's "soulful" vocals performance.[1][2][3] In 2005, the song was placed at #285 on Blender magazine's list of "The 500 Greatest Songs Since You Were Born".[4]

Recognized as Madonna's first mainstream country-inspired song, "Don't Tell Me" was commercially successful. It reached the top five slots in several international charts including Finland, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States, and topped the charts in Canada, New Zealand, Ireland and South Africa. It topped the Billboard Hot Dance Club Songs chart. It would remain Madonna's last top ten hit until 2002's "Die Another Day". The single has sold around 4.5 million copies to date.[5]

Its accompanying music video was directed by Jean-Baptiste Mondino and featured Madonna as a cowgirl walking down an automated treadmill walkway in front of a projection screen, with cowboys dancing and playing on the sand in the video played on the screen behind her. Madonna has performed the song live on the Don't Tell Me Promo Tour (2000), the Drowned World Tour (2001), the American Life Promo Tour (2003) and the Re-Invention World Tour (2004).


"Don't Tell Me" was originally written by Madonna's brother-in-law Joe Henry as "Stop".

The track was written by Joe Henry, Madonna's brother-in-law.[6] He performed and released the track, originally named "Stop", on his 2001 album Scar.[6] His wife Melanie sent a demo of the track to her sister, who liked it and recorded her own version with the help of Mirwais Ahmadzaï. The song is an unusual departure from most mainstream songs and Madonna's own sound up to that point, as the vocals used in its production are often 'dry', or without reverb. Ahmadzai convinced Madonna to try this as a unique effect. Strings were arranged by Michel Colombier, who would continue working with Madonna on subsequent projects.[6]

The unexpected brief pauses of silence heard on the guitar riff at the beginning of the song initially caused some listeners to think that track on the Music album was defective; these intentional pauses help form the unusual beat of the song.

Critical reception[edit]

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Stephen Thomas Erlewine from Allmusic called it a "folk-psych track" and picked it as one of the best songs on the album.[7] Cynthia Fuchs from PopMatters wrote that the song "is another near miss, with admirable attitude but, well, laughable lyrics: "Tell me love isn't true, it's that something that we do" or better, "Tell the bed not to make" (hmmm)."[8] Ben Greenbank from Sputnikmusic wrote that the song "has a country meets dance feel to it, although the beats are very trip hop infused the acoustic riff sounds very folksy and to her credit the combination of two rabidly different genres works excellently."[9] NME called it an "alt-alt-country, hacked-up acoustic guitar over knife-sharp beats."[10]

While reviewing her second compilation album, Sal Cinquemani from Slant Magazine commented about the track:

"'Don't Tell Me' was the most unlikely follow-up to 2000's 'Music'. Stop-and-go guitar riffs, an atypical structure and peculiar lyrics ('Tell the bed not to lay/Like the open mouth of a grave/Not to stare up at me/Like a calf down on its knees') made it an unlikely hit to boot. But a hit is exactly what it was, earning Madonna her 27th Top 5 hit and 24th gold single (tying the Beatles). "Don't Tell Me" found Madonna at her most soulful, with a vocal performance reminiscent of the forceful tone of "Express Yourself."[11]

In 2003, Madonna fans were asked to vote for their top 20 favorite Madonna singles of all time by Q magazine, "Don't Tell Me" won the #13 spot. In 2005, the song placed at #285 on Blender magazine's "The 500 Greatest Songs Since You Were Born".[4] Joe Henry himself praised Madonna's performance on the song, saying: "It's the most soulful I've ever heard her sing."[12]

Chart performance[edit]

"Don't Tell Me" peaked at number four on the U.S. charts and spent eight weeks in the top ten. It made gains at radio for three months consecutively (her longest-growing hit since "Take a Bow"), and also spent a long time on the club-play chart.[13][14] Despite spending only one week at number one (most of her recent dance hits have spent at least two, and "Music" five), it managed 14 weeks on the chart, out-lasting "Music" and tying with "Ray of Light" as Madonna's longest running club hit since "Bedtime Story" in 1995. In addition, "Don't Tell Me" is Madonna's biggest hit on the Adult Top 40 chart, where it peaked at number four, making it her only top five single on that chart. Charting at number ten on the Hot 100 Airplay chart, it was Madonna's last top 10 hit on the chart to date.[15]

On March 28, 2001 the RIAA certified the "Don't Tell Me" single gold. With this 24th gold record, Madonna tied with The Beatles for the second spot of most gold records in the United States.[11] On the Billboard Hot 100 year-end chart it was allocated the number 34 position.

The song was also a huge commercial success around the world, peaking in the top five in many countries. It hit the number one spot in Canada, New Zealand, Ireland and South Africa, remaining at number one for a total of three weeks in the latter two countries. It also reached the number four slot in the United Kingdom. According to The Official Charts Company, the song has sold 185,000 copies there.[16] In Australia, "Don't Tell Me" peaked at number seven and it was certified platinum by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) for shipments of 70,000 units.[17]

Music video[edit]

Madonna, being flanked by the cowboys in the music video for "Don't Tell Me".

The music video for "Don't Tell Me" was directed by Jean-Baptiste Mondino, who worked with Madonna in her videos for "Open Your Heart", "Justify My Love", "Human Nature" and "Love Don't Live Here Anymore", and filmed in October 2000. The choreography was done by Alex Magno, who also collaborated on the Drowned World Tour. The tour designers Dsquared and Arianne Phillips also designed Madonna's cowgirl costume. The video features Madonna walking down an automated treadmill walkway in front of a projection screen, while cowboys dance and play on the sand in the video played on the screen behind her. Later, they join Madonna in front of the screen in a choreographed dance routine. The iconic final scene of the video depicts a cowboy riding a Skewbald horse in slow motion getting thrown to the ground, and getting up again.

There are four unreleased remix videos, using the following audio mixes: Thunderpuss Club Mix, the Thunderdub, the Thunderpuss 2001 Hands In The Air Anthem and the Thunderpuss Tribe-A-Pella.

Live performances[edit]

Madonna and her dancers wearing cowboy clothes, perform "Don't Tell Me" during the Drowned World Tour in 2001

Madonna performed "Don't Tell Me" on her 2001 Drowned World Tour and her 2004 Re-Invention Tour. She also performed the song at the Late Night with David Letterman and the German game-show Wetten, dass..?. She performed the song along with Music in the British television programme Top of The Pops. In January 2014 Madonna appeared as a special guest during Miley Cyrus MTV Unplugged special. She sung a mash-up of "Don't Tell Me" with Miley's song "We Can't Stop". According to Cyrus, "Don't Tell Me" is one of her most favorite songs to karaoke to.[18]

Cover versions and references[edit]

At the 2001 MTV Movie Awards as hosted by Jimmy Fallon and Kirsten Dunst, a parody of the song (and video) were performed by the hosts, as they detailed the anticipated events of the evening. Fallon at one time dropped to the floor to bathe himself in sand, a la Madonna in the video. Fallon, however, got most of it in his pants.

Rock band The Androids recorded a song entitled "Do It with Madonna", where they detail how they would prefer sex with the titular star as opposed to more recently unveiled pop idols. One citation they make to Madonna's appeal is a music video in which she's wearing a "cowboy hat and [...] kicking the dirt", a clear reference to the video for "Don't Tell Me".

Singer Lizz Wright recorded a jazzy take on "Stop" which she included in her 2005 release, "Dreaming Wide Awake".

Track listings and formats[edit]

Official versions[edit]

Charts and certifications[edit]

Preceded by
"Again" by Lenny Kravitz
Italian FIMI Singles Chart number-one single
December 8, 2000
Succeeded by
"Goodnight Moon" by Shivaree
Preceded by
"The Underground" by Celeda
U.S. Billboard Hot Dance Club Play number-one single
January 20, 2001
Succeeded by
"Lady (Hear Me Tonight)" by Modjo
Preceded by
"Cruisin'" by Huey Lewis and Gwyneth Paltrow
New Zealand RIANZ Singles Chart number-one single
February 25, 2001
Succeeded by
"Love Don't Cost a Thing" by Jennifer Lopez

See algo[edit]


  1. ^ name="allmusic1">Thomas, Stephen (2000-09-19). "Music - Madonna". AllMusic. Retrieved 2012-04-12. 
  2. ^ name=popmatters>Fuchs, Cynthia (September 19, 2000). "Madonna: Music < PopMatters". PopMatters. Retrieved April 12, 2012. 
  3. ^ name=sput>Greenbank, Ben (January 21, 2007). "Madonna - Music (album review) | Sputnikmusic". Sputnikmusic. Retrieved April 14, 2012. 
  4. ^ a b "The 500 Greatest Songs Since You Were Born (251–300)". Blender. Alpha Media Group. 2009-01-04. Retrieved 2010-05-17. 
  5. ^ Rowe, Andrea (December 27, 2009). "Madonna's Hits from 2000-2009". Yahoo! Voices. Retrieved April 14, 2012. 
  6. ^ a b c "Don't Tell Me by Madonna Songfacts". Songfacts. Retrieved April 12, 2012. 
  7. ^ Thomas, Stephen (2000-09-19). "Music - Madonna". AllMusic. Retrieved 2012-04-12. 
  8. ^ Fuchs, Cynthia (September 19, 2000). "Madonna: Music < PopMatters". PopMatters. Retrieved April 12, 2012. 
  9. ^ Greenbank, Ben (January 21, 2007). "Madonna - Music (album review) | Sputnikmusic". Sputnikmusic. Retrieved April 14, 2012. 
  10. ^ "NME Album Reviews - Music -". NME. September 15, 2000. Retrieved April 14, 2012. 
  11. ^ a b Cinquemani, Sal (November 9, 2001). "Madonna: GHV2 | Music Review | Slant Magazine". Slant Magazine. Retrieved April 14, 2012. 
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  13. ^ "Billboard Year-End Charts << Absolute Madonna". Retrieved 14 April 2012. 
  14. ^ "Don't Tell Me - Madonna |". Billboard (magazine). Retrieved 14 April 2012. 
  15. ^ "Madonna | Allmusic". Allmusic. Retrieved 14 April 2012. 
  16. ^ "Madonna: The Official Top 40". MTV. MTV Networks. Retrieved 2010-12-20. 
  17. ^ "ARIA Charts – Accreditations – 2001 Singles". Australian Recording Industry Association. Retrieved 2010-10-15. 
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  20. ^ Madonna – Don't Tell Me
  21. ^ Madonna – Don't Tell Me
  22. ^ Madonna – Don't Tell Me
  23. ^ Madonna – Don't Tell Me
  24. ^ Madonna – Don't Tell Me
  25. ^ Madonna – Don't Tell Me
  26. ^ Madonna – Don't Tell Me
  27. ^ Madonna – Don't Tell Me
  28. ^ Madonna – Don't Tell Me
  29. ^ Madonna – Don't Tell Me (CD 2)
  30. ^ Madonna – Don't Tell Me (Remixes)
  31. ^ Madonna – Don't Tell Me (The Remixes)
  32. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Don't Tell Me – Madonna". Ultratop. Hung Medien. Retrieved 2010-05-17. 
  33. ^ a b c d e "Don't Tell Me". Billboard. e5 Global Media. Retrieved 2010-05-17. 
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  36. ^ Salaverri, Fernando (September 2005). Sólo éxitos: año a año, 1959–2002 (1st ed.). Spain: Fundación Autor-SGAE. ISBN 84-8048-639-2. 
  37. ^ "Chart Stats – Madonna – Don't Tell Me". The Official Charts Company. Chart Stats. Archived from the original on 2012-09-08. Retrieved 2010-05-17. 
  38. ^ "ARIA Charts – End Of Year Charts – Top 100 Singles 2001". Retrieved 2011-12-28. 
  39. ^ "I singoli più venduti del 2000" (in Italian). Retrieved June 6, 2012. 
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  44. ^ "Madonna on RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America)". RIAA. Retrieved 23 April 2012. 

External links[edit]