"You Must Love Me is a song recorded by American singer and songwriter Madonna, and written by composers Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, for the 1996 film adaptation of the musicalEvita. It was released on October 27, 1996 by Warner Bros. as the lead single from the film's soundtrack. After years of not working together, Webber and Rice collaborated on the track as a way of obtaining an Academy Award nomination, as it is the only song that's not featured on the original musical. According to Webber, the song's main inspiration was to showcase Eva's emotional state at the time.
Upon its release, the song garnered positive response from music critics, many of them highlighting Madonna's vocal performance; it also won the Golden Globe and the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1997. The song was a moderate success, becoming a top-ten hit in many countries including Australia, Finland, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States. Elsewhere, it had a relatively poor chart performance. A music video, directed by Alan Parker, was released as promotion for the single. Madonna has performed the song at the 69th Academy Awards and on her 2008-09 Sticky & Sweet Tour.
In 1996, Madonna starred in the film Evita, playing the role of Eva Perón. For a long time, Madonna had desired to play Perón and even wrote to director Alan Parker, explaining how she would be perfect for the part. After securing the role, she underwent vocal training with coach Joan Layder since Evita required the actors to sing their own parts. Layder noted that the singer "had to use her voice in a way she's never used it before. Evita is real musical theater — its operatic, in a sense. Madonna developed an upper register that she didn't know she had."
"You Must Love Me" was written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, who had reunited for Evita after a ten-year creative separation. It was written specifically for the film, so that it would contain new material and be eligible for an Academy Award nomination. Declared as a favorite of the singer, "You Must Love Me" also grew organically due to Parker re-arranging the ending of the film from the original play. According to Webber, the main inspiration behind the song was to showcase Perón's emotional state at the time as well as her relationship with husband Juan Perón; "[Eva] is dying and she knows she's dying. One reason she is saying, 'You must love me', is out of desperation. She's also saying, 'You must love me because you must have always loved me', so it's a little word play, I guess, which Tim Rice has written". It was released as the soundtrack's first official single on October 27, 1996. Since its release, the song has been included in several productions of the play, including the 2006 London production and the 2012 Broadway revival.
Recording sessions for the film's songs and soundtrack began on September 1995, and took place at the CTS Studios in London with Madonna accompanied by co-actors Antonio Banderas and Jonathan Pryce. However, trouble arose as Madonna was not completely comfortable with laying down a "guide vocal" simultaneously with an 84 piece orchestra inside the studio. She was used to singing over a pre-recorded track and not have musicians listen to her. Also, unlike her previous soundtrack releases, she had little to no control over the project; "I'm used to writing my own songs and I go into a studio, choose the musicians and say what sounds good or doesn't [...] To work on forty-six songs with everyone involved and not have a big say was a big adjustment", she recalled. An emergency meeting was held between Parker, Webber and Madonna where it was decided that the singer would record her part in a more contemporary studio while the orchestration would take place somewhere else. She also had alternate days off from the recording.
"You Must Love Me" starts with the sound of orchestra and piano, as Madonna sings the opening verses. She continues singing the lyrics which talks about Perón's discovery that her husband Juan has actually loved her all along and not merely seen her as a political prop. Other instrumentation for the song includes cello, which was played by a live orchestra. According to the sheet music published by Musicnotes.com, the song is set in common time, with a moderate tempo of 92 beats per minute. It is composed in the key of B♭ major, with Madonna's vocals spanning from G3 to B♭4. The song has a basic sequence of B♭–E♭/B♭–F♭/B♭–B♭ in the beginning and changes to B♭–F♭ when Madonna sings the opening verse "Where do we go from here?".
Upon its release, "You Must Love Me" received generally positive reviews from critics. J. Randy Taraborrelli, author of Madonna: An Intimate Biography, wrote: "Who can deny that her voice has remarkable and unmistakable presence when heard during 'You Must Love Me'?".Stephen Thomas Erlewine from AllMusic felt that "Even with the faults, Evita has its merits, including the written-for-film ballad 'You Must Love Me'". Larry Flick, from Billboard, called it "a momentous musical event [...] a bittersweet and quietly theatrical ballad [written] specifically for Madonna". Kathleen Guerdo, also from Billboard, said that "[Madonna] delivers what is by far one of the strongest vocal performances of her career, comfortably scaling to the song's demanding soprano heights while infusing it with delicate, heart-rending emotion. This bodes well for the creative potency of the rest of the soundtrack, which is due Nov. 14. Prepare for wall-to-wall airplay of this flawless ballad on pop and AC radio". Matthew Jacobs from The Huffington Post, placed it at number 61 of his list "The Definitive Ranking Of Madonna Singles"; writing "The vocal training Madonna endured for the movie pays off in this soprano serenade". But also noted that it "doesn't do much outside of the film".
In the United States, "You Must Love Me" was serviced to radio on October 9, 1996. It was met with a positive response, garnering 118 plays the first week, and debuting at number 55 on the Hot 100 Airplay chart. The CD single was released on October 29, following public demands about the song. It debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 at number 22 the week of November 14, 1996, ultimately peaking at number 18 after two weeks. It ranked at number 99 on the year end chart for 1997. According to Billboard, "You Must Love Me" was Madonna's fourth highest debuting single of her career, following "You'll See" (number 8 in 1996), "Erotica" (number 13 in 1992) and "Rescue Me" (number 15 in 1990). It was also the highest charting Webber-Rice collaboration since Helen Reddy's rendition of "I Don't Know How to Love Him", which reached number 13 in 1971. It eventually received a gold certification by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) on October 22, 1998, for shipments of 500,000 copies. In Canada, the song debuted at number 36 on the RPM Top Singles chart, and reached a peak of number 11 on the week of December 16, 1996. It was present for a total of 14 weeks on the chart.
In the United Kingdom, the song stalled at number 10 on the UK Singles Chart the week of November 2, 1996, and was present on the top 100 for a total of 9 weeks. In Australia, "You Must Love Me" peaked at number 11 on the ARIA Singles Chart the week of November 10, 1996, staying on this position for one week and a total of 9 weeks on the chart. In Italy, it reached the fourth position of the FIMI Singles Chart. On the year-end Italian charts, it was ranked at number 39. "You Must Love Me" reached a peak of number 4 in Finland, and also reached a peak of number 21 on the Irish Singles Chart, where it remained for 2 weeks. In Germany, it became one of Madonna's lowest charting singles, peaking at number 78.
The music video for "You Must Love Me" was directed by Alan Parker, who had also directed Madonna on Evita. The video features the singer performing the song inside a small room; intercalating with footage and scenes from Evita. As Madonna was eight months pregnant with her daughter Lourdes Maria, her stomach remained hidden behind a piano. The music video was included as a bonus feature on the 15th Anniversary Edition blu-ray of the film, released on June 19, 2012. On March 24, 1997, Madonna performed the song at the 69th Academy Awards dressed in a long, strapless Christian Dior gown. Writing for The Philadelphia Inquirer, movie critic Carrie Rickey felt that the singer "gave a restrained performance of the number".
11 years later, Madonna performed the song as part of her Sticky & Sweet Tour. She appeared on stage wearing a black Givenchy dress, with pink colored ribbons around her neck and black stockings on her legs and performed an acoustic, guitar-driven version of the song sitting on a stool. She was backed by 4 musicians who were dressed in gypsy clothes. As she performed the song, scenes from Evita played on the backdrop screens. The performance received positive feedback from critics with Ricardo Baca, from The Denver Post, writing that "her courageous, late-set take on "You Must Love Me" — from the filmed version of the Broadway musical "Evita" — was spot-on and gorgeous with its string accompaniment". Singer Brooke White covered the song on the seventh season of American Idol. She marked Idol history that night when, after forgetting the lyrics to the song, she stopped after the first verse to start over from the beginning.