Secret (Madonna song)

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Single by Madonna
from the album Bedtime Stories
B-side "Let Down Your Guard" (UK)
Released September 27, 1994 (1994-09-27)
Recorded April – June 1994
(New York City), (Atlanta, GA)[1]
Length 5:04
  • Madonna
  • Dallas Austin
Madonna singles chronology
"I'll Remember"
"Take a Bow"
Music video
"Secret" on YouTube

"Secret" is a song by American singer Madonna from her sixth studio album Bedtime Stories (1994). It was later included on her greatest hits compilations GHV2 (2001) and Celebration (2009). It was originally written and produced by Madonna with Shep Pettibone, who she had collaborated with on the 1992 album Erotica. On release, the song was credited to Madonna and Dallas Austin. Pettibone was not acknowledged as co-writer until the release of a 2001 remix compilation album GHV2 Remixed: The Best of 1991-2001.

"Secret" received favorable reviews from music critics, who praised Madonna's vocals in the song and its mid-tempo R&B groove, deeming it seductive and soulful. Commecially, the song became a top ten hit around the world. In the United States, it peaked at number three on the Billboard Hot 100 and was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). In the United Kingdom it reached a peak of number five, becoming her record-breaking 35th consecutive top-ten single on the UK Singles Chart. Elsewhere, it was also successful, reaching the top five in Australia, Canada, Switzerland and Spain.

An accompanying black and white music video, directed by photographer Melodie McDaniel, was released for the song. The music video features Madonna as a singer in a night club, whose lover has his young son as his secret. The song was performed on tour for the first time during her 2001 Drowned World Tour. It was later performed at the Houston stop of her Sticky and Sweet Tour in November 2008 as a fan request, and later on the Rebel Heart Tour in 2015.


Madonna's appearance on the cover art of the single has been compared to that of Jean Harlow

In 1992, Madonna released her controversial Sex book and her fifth studio album Erotica, both featuring a highly sexual image of her. She also starred in the erotic thriller Body of Evidence. The three were critically panned by critics and fans alike,[2] who questioned Madonna as a sexual renegade and claimed that "she had gone too far" and that her career was over. In early 1994, after finishing the Girlie Show World Tour in support of Erotica, she recorded the song "I'll Remember", which was released as the theme from the movie With Honors. The song was well received by critics, who hailed it as some of her best work. However, her appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman was noted by her constant use of profanity and references to sex that needed to be censored on television, and caused a large public controversy.[3] During 1994, Madonna started recording her sixth studio album. At first, it started as a collaboration with Shep Pettibone and was to be stylistically similar to Erotica, but due to Madonna's wish to soften her public image at the time, she decided to move towards an R&B sound collaborating with well-known R&B producers and took a more appropriate image for the general public. She had the idea for "Secret" before recording the album.[4] In September 1994, the song was announced as the lead single from Bedtime Stories. The song was written by Madonna, Dallas Austin and Shep Pettibone. It was later included in the compilation albums GHV2 and Celebration in its deluxe edition. The cover art of the single, as well as the song's music video, showed a change in appearance for Madonna since her previous single "I'll Remember" (1994) - in which she sported short cropped dark hair - with her newly longer blonde hair and style drawing comparisons to the look of 1930s American actress Jean Harlow.[5] Unusual for the mid-1990s, Madonna talked about the new single on the Internet, with a 30-second sample of "Secret" and the cover image of the then-unreleased Bedtime Stories. She also left a message with the following words:[6]

Hello, all you Cyberheads! Welcome to the 90's version of intimacy. You can hear me... You can even see me... But you can't touch me... do you recognize my voice?... It's Madonna. Often imitated, but never duplicated. Or, should I say, often irritated?

If you feel like it, you can download the sound file of my new single "Secret", from my new album, "Bedtime Stories", which comes out next month. I just shot the video in New York, and will be premiering an exclusive sample of it online. So check back soon. In the meantime, why don't you post me a message and let me know what you think of my new song. And by the way, don't believe any of those online imposters pretending to be me... ain't nothing like the real thing.

Peace out.[7]

The last part of her message referred to a brief trend of AOL chatroom users impersonating her; this was confirmed by MTV News.


"Secret" was written by Madonna, Dallas Austin and Shep Pettibone. Its R&B influence was a departure from Madonna's big-sounding dance tracks

Problems playing this file? See media help.

"Secret" was written by Madonna, Dallas Austin and Shep Pettibone. Musically, it features R&B and pop genres and is written in the key of E-flat minor.[8] According to, the song has 96 beats per minute and Madonna's vocal range is Gb3 to Gb4.[9]

The song was a departure from the style of music that Madonna had previously released, because up to that point in her career her music had mostly been big-sounding dance tracks or melodic ballads.[10] The song begins with just the sound of Madonna's voice singing over a rhythmic, folksy guitar, before opening up to a sparse, retro rhythm section.[10] Madonna's voice remains at the center of the song's production, as she sings lyrics such as "happiness lies in your own hand."[11] In Madonna the Companion: Two Decades of Commentary, authors Allen Metz and Carol Benson write that the tone that Madonna uses when singing these lyrics suggests that she is discussing "self-determinism, not auto-eroticism."[11] Throughout the song Madonna also sings the lyrics "My baby's got a secret," however, she never discloses what the secret may be.[12] In his book Madonna: An Intimate Biography, J. Randy Taraborrelli describes the song as "clever," adding that no matter how many time one listens to it, "it never ceases to intrigue."[12]


At the time, "Secret" was experiencing success on American charts. To keep the song current in dance clubs, Madonna requested remixes of the song for Junior Vasquez, who was a DJ at the Sound Factory nightclub in New York. "They sent me a cassette of the song, just to get an idea what the song was", Vasquez said of the original mid-tempo cut, "and when it was 100 beats per minute I said, 'Oh god, what am I gonna do with this?'" Before tackling the club mixes, Vasquez and his engineers experimented with versions truer to the original. Then, the DJ wrote and produced all new music for the club mixes, only utilizing Madonna's original vocals for the final product. He said, "I knew I was gonna do the house thing, but I knew right away we’d have to speed up the vocals". Audio engineer P. Dennis Mitchell explained, "To do that we have to digitally manipulate her vocals, which is time compression. It just digitally goes in and snipes out tiny little digital slices of the actual sound and squeezes it together so that her tempo is a new tempo but her pitch stays the same". Madonna’s different ’cause she’s like really on top of everything. The house mix is just as important to her as what her original interpretation of the song is", Vasquez completed.[13]

The song also had several remixes, most notably the Junior Vasquez dance mixes.[5] There are two versions of "Junior's Luscious Mix," those being a single edit and a longer version, which, complete with a piano intro, turns the organic/guitar-flavored song into a dancefloor epic.[5] Her vocals were re-edited to fit in with the faster beats. According to Jose F. Promis of AllMusic, the vocal re-edits give her vocals a "robotic, detached feel that the original doesn't have."[5] Junior's "Sound Factory Mix" has swirling instrumentals recalling flashing lights in a nightclub.[5] The "Some Bizarre Mix" gives the song a groovier, funkier spin, while the "Allstar Mix," gives the song a cold, hip-hop feel.[5]

Critical reception[edit]

"Secret" received generally positive reviews from music critics. Sal Cinquemani from Slant Magazine noted that "Secret" was probably the most naked performance of Madonna's career, with "acoustic guitars, expertly sweetened vocals and producer Dallas Austin's signature R&B beats [which] soulfully transport the listener into Madonna's troubled yet soothing world."[14] Barbara O'Dair from Rolling Stone called the song "infectiously funky", adding that her delivery of the lyrics "Happiness lies in your own hand/It took me much too long to understand" shows a downbeat restraint in her vocals that proves the singer is "drawn to sadness".[15] Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic listed the song as one of the best songs from Bedtime Stories, stating that it, along with other album tracks "Take a Bow", "Inside of Me", "Sanctuary" and "Bedtime Story", slowly "works its melody into the subconscious as the bass pulses".[16] Billboard described the song as a "pop smash" that is one of the most "seductive" songs from Bedtime Stories.[17] Alex Needham of NME called the song an "underrated gem", adding that the track has a "brilliant bluesy strut".[18] In his 2011 review of Bedtime Stories, Brett Callwood of the Detroit Metro Times called the song "spectacular."[19] Charlotte Robinson, writer from PopMatters, wrote that the gentle grooves of "Secret", accompanied by acoustic guitar and delicate strings, make the song "seductive".[20]

British magazine NME ranked it at number 30 in their list of the best songs of 1994.[21] Slant Magazine listed "Secret" as the 42nd "Best Singles of the '90s," stating that its "one of the most organic-sounding singles of Madonna's career, taking its sweet time to get where it's going and not giving up too much along the way. The arrangement gets off on being withholding, and, at least for one glorious single, so does Madonna: When she sings, "You knew all along/What I never wanted to say," she sounds positively rapturous.[22] Scott Kearnan of included the track at number thirty on his list of "Best Madonna Songs", stating "its "slinky R&B groove made 'Secret' something special, even if it’s not remembered for an accompanying scandal or bawdy 'moment.' We like to talk about her ability to produce controversy and headlines, but at the end of the day, here’s what Madonna makes best: pop music".[23] Louis Virtel of The Backlot listed the song at number 14 on his list of the "The 100 Greatest Madonna Songs", calling it "meditative, moving" and "sexy as hell".[24]

Commercial performance[edit]

Madonna performing "Secret" during the Drowned World Tour in 2001.

"Secret" achieved worldwide chart success. In the United States it debuted at number 30 on the Billboard Hot 100. The next week it shot straight into the top-ten at number nine. Three weeks later it peaked on the chart at number three, staying on the chart for a total of 22 weeks (11 of which were within the top-ten). It also peaked of number three on both the U.S. Hot 100 Airplay and Top 40 Mainstream charts and at number two on the Adult Contemporary chart. On the Hot Dance Club Play chart it peaked at number one for two weeks, mostly in part due to the remixes released by Junior Vasquez. On the Billboard Hot 100 year-end charts "Secret" was given the number 84 position for the year 1994 and the number 71 position for the year 1995 and was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America on January 5, 1995.[25] In Canada the song debuted at number 91 on the Canadian RPM Singles Chart the week of October 3, 1994, eventually peaking at number one for three consecutive weeks starting the week of November 14, 1994.[26][27] On the RPM 1994 Year-End Chart, the song finished at number 23.[28]

In the United Kingdom "Secret" peaked at number five on the UK Singles Chart, and according to The Official Charts Company, has sold a total of 117,957 copies in that region as of 2008.[29] "Secret" became her 35th consecutive top-ten single since "Like a Virgin" (1984), which remains an unequaled record in British chart history.[30] On the French Singles Chart the single peaked at number two for two weeks, staying on the chart for a total of 30 weeks.[31] It placed at number 26 on the year-end chart and was eventually certified silver by the Syndicat National de l'Édition Phonographique (SNEP) for shipment of 125,000 copies.[32][33] It has sold a total of 255,000 copies in France.[34] "Secret" entered the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) singles chart at its peak of number five the week of October 23, 1994, eventually charting for a total of fourteen weeks.[35] It later landed in the number 46 position on the Australian singles year-end chart.[36] The song also peaked at number one in Finland as well as Switzerland, charting on the Swiss Singles Chart for a total of 19 weeks.[37][38] In New Zealand, the song entered the New Zealand Singles Chart at number 31 the week of November 6, 1994, eventually peaked at number five, remaining on the chart for a total of eight weeks.[39] The song also placed within the top 10 on the charts in Italy, Spain, and Denmark, peaking at number three, number four, and number eight respectively.[40][41][42] In Austria the single barely missed the top 10, peaking at number 11, while in Ireland it peaked at number 16 on the Irish Singles Chart (IRMA).[43][44] In Sweden, the song peaked at number 12 and spent a total of 16 cumulative weeks on the chart.[45]

Music video[edit]

Madonna singing in a club in the "Secret" music video

The music video for "Secret" was directed by photographer Melodie McDaniel, who previously had gained acclaim as a photographer for album artwork.[46] It was filmed on September 9–11, 1994 at the Lenox Lounge and on location on Lenox Avenue in Harlem,[47] and premiered on October 4 on MTV.[48] The video was filmed in lush photographic black and white.[47] It begins with Madonna singing in a club. As the song progresses, Madonna walks down a street, while images of people along the street are shown.[47] At the climax of the video, Madonna reaches her home to her love interest (played by a model mistakenly thought to be Jason Olive) and his young son.[49] According to the book Madonna's Drowned Worlds, the young son that is revealed at the end of the video is her lover's secret.[50] Throughout the video, scenes of Madonna are interspersed with scenes of drag queens primping, and religious iconography such as rebirth and damnation.[47] In his book From Hegel to Madonna, author Robert Miklitsch states that the music video for "Secret" is a departure from the various themes - repression and loss, anger and aggression - explored so vividly on Bedtime Stories.[51] Miklitsch goes on to say that, although the video depicts images of cleansing rebirth, the fact that Madonna announced that she was pregnant in 1996 shows that, in retrospect, "Secret" may have been less about cleansing rebirth, and instead more about maternity as birth.[51] Bill Lamb of ranked the video at number eight on his list of "Top 10 Madonna Music Videos."[47]

Live performances and cover[edit]

"Secret" was performed on tour for the first time during Madonna's 2001 Drowned World Tour, during the cowgirl section of the show.[52] The performance was accompanied by a video montage of riverside baptismals, Sufi dervish ceremonies and Buddhist prayers.[52][53] Alexis Petridis of The Guardian called the performance "a gorgeous acoustic reading."[54] During the New York City performance of "Secret", she dedicated the song to its inhabitants.[55] The performance of the song on August 26, 2001, at The Palace of Auburn Hills was recorded and released in the live video album, Drowned World Tour 2001.[56] In November 2008, it was performed a cappella at the Houston stop of Sticky & Sweet Tour as a fan request. Madonna after the performance said: "Alright Texas! That was really good. I'd forgotten that song".[57] During the Vancouver stop on her Rebel Heart Tour in 2015, Madonna also performed an acoustic rendition of the song, dedicating it to a "special guest" in the audience, which was assumed by media to be her ex-husband Sean Penn, who was in the audience. The singer admitted she had not practiced the performance, and according to Vancouver Sun, it "came across as, charitably, unpracticed (if well-intentioned)".[58][59] Brazilian singer Danni Carlos covered the song for her 2005 album Rock' 'n' Road All Night.[60]

Track listings and versions[edit]

Major formats released for "Secret", some of the remixes also appear on the UK and European versions of the single "Bedtime Story" (1995).


Preceded by
"I'll Make Love to You" by Boyz II Men
Canadian RPM Singles Chart number-one single
November 14, 1994 - November 28, 1994
Succeeded by
"Always" by Bon Jovi
Preceded by
"Always" by Bon Jovi
Swiss Singles Chart number-one single
November 20, 1994
Succeeded by
"Cotton Eye Joe" by Rednex
Preceded by
"Dreamer" by Livin' Joy
Billboard Hot Dance Club Play number-one single
November 26, 1994 - December 3, 1994
Succeeded by
"Excited" by M People


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External links[edit]