Take a Bow (Madonna song)

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"Take a Bow"
Single by Madonna
from the album Bedtime Stories
B-side "Take a Bow" (InDaSoul Mix)
Released December 6, 1994
Format CD, CD maxi single
Recorded 1994
Genre Pop
Length 5:21
Label
Writer(s)
Producer(s)
  • Madonna
  • Babyface
Madonna singles chronology
"Secret"
(1994)
"Take a Bow"
(1994)
"Bedtime Story"
(1995)

"Take a Bow" is a song by American singer-songwriter Madonna from her sixth studio album Bedtime Stories. The song was released as the album's second single on December 6, 1994 by Maverick Records. It is a midtempo pop ballad written and produced by Madonna and R&B singer-songwriter Babyface. The song also appears on her compilation albums Something to Remember (1995), GHV2 (2001) and Celebration (2009).

"Take a Bow" received favorable reviews from music critics, who praised the song's soulful, poetic lyrics. The song was a big success in the United States, becoming her eleventh number-one single on the Billboard Hot 100, topping the chart for seven weeks. It was her first single to reach number-one since "This Used to Be My Playground" in 1992, and would be her last number-one song in the United States in the 1990s. Elsewhere in the world, the single also had success, reaching number-one in Canada, and the top-ten in Italy, Switzerland, and New Zealand. In the United Kingdom, it had moderate success, reaching number sixteen on the UK Singles Chart.

The music video for "Take a Bow", directed by Michael Haussman, was filmed in Ronda and the bullring of Antequera, Spain. The plot depicts Madonna as a bullfighter's (played by real-life Spanish bullfighter Emilio Muñoz) neglected lover, yearning for his unrequited love. The video won Best Female Video honors at the 1995 MTV Video Music Awards. Madonna performed "Take a Bow" live with Babyface at the 1995 American Music Awards and at the 1995 San Remo Festival in Italy. However, Madonna has never performed "Take a Bow" on any of her world tours. Madonna did rehearse the song for 2004's Re-Invention World Tour, but it was ultimately cut from the setlist and not included in the show.[1]

Background[edit]

Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds co-wrote, co-produced and provided background vocals on "Take a Bow"

Following the release Madonna's first book publication, Sex, the erotic thriller, Body of Evidence, and the album, Erotica, in the early 1990s, the media and public's backlash against Madonna’s overtly sexual image was at a peak.[2] Released in early March, 1994, her first musical release after Erotica was the tender ballad "I'll Remember" from the soundtrack of the film With Honors. When Madonna appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman on March 31, 1994 to promote the single, her coarse language and behavior—which was provocative, seemingly random at times, full of double entendres (at one point asking Letterman to sniff her panties), profanities, and ended with a refusal to leave the set—caused yet another large public controversy.[3] Following this, Madonna decided to tone down her image and move her career into a new direction. Musically, she explored new-jack R&B styles with a generally mainstream, radio-friendly sound.[4] This new R&B sound was reflected in Bedtime Stories, released in October, 1994.[4] For "Take a Bow", the second single released off of the album, Madonna wanted a more "romantic vein" so she worked with Babyface on the track because he had proved himself to be very successful in his previous works with smooth R&B, working with other artists such as Whitney Houston, Boyz II Men, and Toni Braxton.[5] Although not listed in the credits as a performer, Babyface sings background vocals on the track.[6] The maxi-single release of "Take a Bow" includes two remixes of the song.[7] According to Jose F. Promis of Allmusic, the first remix, known as the "In Da Soul" mix, gives the ballad a funkier, more urban feel while the second remix, known as the "Silky Soul Mix", is a little more "quiet storm" and "melancholy" than the first.[7]

Composition[edit]

Co-written by Babyface (who also provides backing vocals), the Canto-pop styled ballad became Madonna's first US number one in almost three years.

Problems playing this file? See media help.

"Take a Bow" is a midtempo pop ballad with a "Sukiyaki"-like Japanese touch.[8] It was written and produced by Madonna and Babyface.[9] According to Musicnotes.com, the song has a moderate calypso feel and 80 beats per minute.[9] Madonna vocal range on the track is Eb3 to C5.[9] The song contains oriental pentatonics and strings, giving the impression of Chinese or Japanese nights and their opera.[10] Madonna sings the song in the sleepy languid mood that characterises the songs from Bedtime Stories.[10] The chorus expresses the theme of saying goodbye to a lover who had taken her for granted. The title plays upon the verse in the song "all the world is a stage and everyone has their part," a reference to the line by William Shakespeare in his play As You Like It, "All the world's a stage, and all the men and women mere players".[10] In his book Madonna: An Intimate Biography, J. Randy Taraborrelli describes the song as a "somber, sarcastic, all-the-world's-a-stage song about unrequited love... [about a subject] whose phoniness might have fooled everyone else, but not her."[6] He goes on to say that in the song Madonna tells the subject of her unrequited love to take a bow for "rendering a great, transparent performance in life and love."[6]

Reception[edit]

Critical response[edit]

“Take a Bow” features a more demure Madonna, confident in her termination of a doomed relationship, and the music is accented by characteristically Asian orchestration and lovely poetic lyrics. Also, instead of shying away from her sexuality completely, the video features the scantily dressed singer making love to a television—a scene just as explicit as her previous work, but this time more poignant and significant. Madonna quickly learned that the way back into the public’s collective hearts was to focus more attention on the music than on the frankness of her sexual image."

-Enio Chiola of PopMatters[11]

Billboard gave the single a very positive review, calling the song a "plush pop ballad" that's "as close to perfect as top 40 fare gets". Adding that it has a lead vocal that is "both sweet and quietly soulful".[12][13] James Hunter from Vibe called the song "a New Soul masterpiece".[14] Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic stated that "Take a Bow" is "tremendous", listing it as one of the best songs off of Bedtime Stories and stating that it (along with album tracks "Secret", "Inside of Me", "Sanctuary", and "Bedtime Story") slowly "works its melodies into the subconscious as the bass pulses." He goes on to say that it "offer[s] an antidote to Erotica, which was filled with deep but cold grooves."[15][16] Sal Cinquemani of Slant Magazine referred to the ballad as "syrupy" and "bittersweet".[17] In his 2011 review of Bedtime Stories, Brett Callwood of the Detroit Metro Times called the song "spectacular", while Alex Needham of NME feels that it is a "gorgeously constructed song by any standards".[18][19] Enio Chiola of PopMatters listed the song in his list of "Top 15 Madonna Singles of All Time", noting that the track was "accented perfectly by the fantastic video".[11] In 2013 Billboard allocated "Take a Bow" the number four spot on its list of "Madonna's Biggest Billboard Hits", declaring it Madonna's second-most successful single of the 1990s decade after Vogue.[20] NPR Multimedia senior producer Keith Jenkins gave a positive review of the song, stating that it "washes over you and gets your blood boiling. You may not walk on water after hearing it, but you may want to get your focus back by walking on broken glass."[21] Peter Galvin of The Advocate wrote that through the lyrics 'One lonely star and you don't know who you are' you begin to "realize that she is talking about herself-and the effect is truly heartbreaking." He goes on to say that "the song...movingly shows that ultimately Madonna is neither Madonna nor whore-rather she's just like you and me."[8] J.D. Considine of The Baltimore Sun stated that the song, about "innocent romance" has a "gently cascading melody".[22]

Chart performance[edit]

"Take a Bow" was a huge success for Madonna on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It topped the chart for seven weeks and is her longest-running number-one single on this chart.[23] It was her 11th single to top the Billboard Hot 100 and her 23rd top five entry-both records for a female artist.[24] She also replaced Carole King as the female who had written the most number one songs.[24] "Take a Bow" became Madonna's fifth number-one single on the Adult Contemporary chart in the United States, following "Live to Tell", "La Isla Bonita", "Cherish", and "I'll Remember". The song is also notable as Madonna's last single (to date) to make the top 40 of the U.S. R&B chart. The single received the remix treatment from prominent DJ and record producer Steve Hurley. On February 27, 1995, the single was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for shipping 500,000 copies.[25] According to Billboard Magazine, it was one of the best selling singles of 1995, selling 500,000 copies in that year alone.[26]

Although the single was a huge hit in the United States, it performed moderately in the United Kingdom and peaked at number 16. "Take a Bow" ended Madonna's record string of 35 consecutive top-ten single on the UK Singles Chart from "Like a Virgin" (1984) to "Secret" (1994).[27] According to The Official Charts Company, the single has sold 102,739 copies in the United Kingdom, as of August 2008.[28] In Canada the song topped the charts, becoming her 12th number-one single in that country. In Australia, "Take a Bow" debuted on the ARIA Singles Chart at number 21 on December 25, 1994, eventually peaking at number 15.[29] It was present on the chart for a total of 17 weeks.[29] The song peaked at number two on the Italian Singles Chart and at number eight on the Swiss Singles Chart.[29] In New Zealand, the single peaked at number nine on the New Zealand Singles Chart, spending a total of 13 weeks on the chart.[29]

Music video[edit]

Background and synopsis[edit]

Madonna as the mistress of a Spanish bullfighter in the music video for "Take a Bow"

The music video for "Take a Bow" was directed by Michael Haussman, and is a lavish period-style piece filmed from November 3–8, 1994 in Ronda and in the bullring of Antequera, Spain.[30] The plot, set in the 1940s, depicts Madonna as a neglected lover of a bullfighter, played by real-life Spanish bullfighter Emilio Muñoz.[31] Madonna's character yearns for the bullfighter's presence, with erotic heartbreak.[31] A total of three different bulls were used during the production of the music video.[32] In the video Madonna wears fitted, classic suits by British fashion designer John Galliano.[33] In an interview with MTV's Kurt Loder on the set of the music video, Madonna said that when she was initially writing "Take a Bow" the inspiration for the song was an actor, but she wanted the male character in the video to be to be a matador instead because she wanted the video to be about an "obsessive, tragic love story that doesn't work out in the end" and a matador would be more visually effective in expressing the emotion of the song.[34] The style of the music video has been compared to Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar's 1986 film Matador, starring Antonio Banderas.[35] The music video for Madonna's 1995 single "You'll See" is considered a follow up to the "Take a Bow" music video, as Madonna and Emilio Muñoz reprise their roles.[36] In that video Madonna's character walks out on Munoz's (bullfighter) character, leaving him behind in despair. Madonna's character is then seen on the train and later on a plane, while Munoz's character tries to catch up with her in vain.[36]

The video can be viewed as a statement on classism, supposing the bullfighter feels threatened and angered by the aristocrat's station, resulting in his physically abusing and then coldly abandoning her. The images of the music video show Madonna, the matador [Munoz], and the townspeople preparing for, the attending, a bullfight.[37] A secondary staging in the video presents Madonna standing or sitting near a television set in a room(lit by a single light source from above), while a third staging depicts Madonna writhing around on a bed in her underwear as she watching Munoz on the television.[31][37] Madonna requested that Haussman give the video a Spanish theme because, at the time, she was lobbying for the role of Eva Perón in the film version of Evita. She subsequently sent a copy of the video to director Alan Parker as a way of "auditioning" for the role. Madonna eventually won the role of Perón.[38]

Reception and accolades[edit]

The music video for "Take a Bow" inspired Justin Timberlake's video for "SexyBack" (2006) and was later tributed by Britney Spears' video for "Radar" (2009)

The video generated controversy with animal rights activists who accused the singer of glorifying bullfighting.[39] In Australia, music video program Video Hits ran a ticker along the bottom of the screen when the video was playing, stating that the producers of the program did not endorse the glorification of the sport portrayed in the video, while ABC TV video program rage simply refused to play the video at all during their G-rated Top 50 program. Madonna won Best Female Video honors at the 1995 MTV Video Music Awards for the "Take a Bow" music video. It was also nominated for Best Art Direction in a Video, but lost to Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson's "Scream". The video also came in at number 27 on VH1's 50 Sexiest Video Moments.[40] In 2012, the television program Extra included "Take a Bow" on their list of "The 10 Sexiest Madonna Music Videos."[41]

Like some of Madonna's previous music videos, such as "La Isla Bonita" and "Like a Prayer", religious imagery plays a big role in the music video. In the book Madonna's Drowned Worlds the use of Catholic imagery in the video is discussed, but the author points out that unlike Madonna's previous music videos, much of the religious imagery is associated with the matador, not Madonna, due to the fact that religious images are a strong part of the bull-fighting ritual.[42] It has also been argued that in the video Madonna "subverts the gender structure and masculine subjectivity implicit in traditional bullfighting."[43] This is achieved through the "feminization of the matador and the emphasis on Madonna's character" and also through Madonna's "dominant gaze" as she watches the matador perform."[43]

In Madonna as Postmodern Myth, author Georges-Claude Guilbert described the video as "a sexy video which defied feminists of the Marilyn Frye and Adrienne Rich variety, who see in the video a disgusting example of passé female submissiveness."[39] Madonna responded to this criticism by stating "I don't believe that any organization should dictate to me what I can and cannot do artistically."[39] When discussing "Take a Bow", NPR Multimedia senior producer Keith Jenkins said the music video, with its "rich, sensually framed sepia tones", doesn't leave much to the imagination but rather, it becomes your imagination, with Madonna's vision "drill[ed] into your brain, unlocking your waking eye."[21]

Influence[edit]

The "Take a Bow" video was a source of inspiration for Justin Timberlake's 2006 "SexyBack" video.[44] According to Timberlake, he decided to work with director Michael Haussman on his "SexyBack" video because Take a Bow is one of his favorite Madonna videos. He went on to say "Even today, I still remember the visuals, the images, how he captured her. A lot of times, Madonna seems like she's the person in control, and in that video, she seemed vulnerable. It was a cool thing to see."[44] According to director Dave Meyers, the music video for Britney Spears' 2009 single "Radar" is a "tribute" to Madonna's "Take a Bow" video.[45] When speaking of Spears and the "Radar" video, Meyers explained, "[we were] looking for a way to take her into a contemporary, classy environment. I felt empowered by referencing Madonna's [Take a Bow] video. Britney hasn't done anything like that."[45]

Cover versions and usage in media[edit]

Trisha Yearwood (pictured) and Babyface sang the song together on CMT's Crossroads in 2007
  • Serbian pop singer Bebi Dol released Serbian language-cover literally titled "Pokloni se", on her 1995 album Ritam srca.[46]
  • Philippine bossa nova singer Sitti recorded a cover of this song for her second album My Bossa Nova.
  • Korean rock band Jaurim covered the song on their album The Youth Admiration.
  • Trisha Yearwood and Babyface covered the song on CMT's Crossroads, which aired on September 21, 2007.[47]
  • Melissa Totten did a Hi-NRG cover for her 2008 dance album Forever Madonna.
  • American pop folk singer Matt Alber plays an acoustic cover on his 2011 album Constant Crows.
  • "Take a Bow" was featured in the final episode of the first season of Friends, "The One Where Rachel Finds Out", when Rachel goes to the airport to tell Ross that she knows he is in love with her.
  • "Take a Bow" was used in promos for the final season of Beverly Hills, 90210.

Track listings[edit]

[48]

Charts[edit]

Chart procession and succession[edit]

Preceded by
"Creep" by TLC
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 number-one single
February 25, 1995 – April 8, 1995
Succeeded by
"This Is How We Do It" by Montell Jordan
Preceded by
"Love Will Keep Us Alive" by The Eagles
U.S. Billboard Adult Contemporary number-one single
February 18, 1995 – April 15, 1995
Succeeded by
"In the House of Stone and Light" by Martin Page
Preceded by
"Bang and Blame" by R.E.M.
Canadian RPM Singles Chart number-one single
March 6, 1995 – March 13, 1995
Succeeded by
"Strong Enough" by Sheryl Crow

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External links[edit]