- Something to remember: All the world is a stage
...and everyone has their part. With that Shakespearean line as the centerpiece of the song's bridge, Take A Bow signals a very special period in Madonna's career. The closing track and also the second single of the Bedtime Stories album, Take A Bow received exceptional video treatment from Madonna, and the final result of that premiered on MTV exactly 15 years ago, on November 30th, 1994. Madonna flew to historic town Ronda in Spain with the direction of Michael Haussman and created a videoclip that would serve as her plea to get her dream role as Eva Peron. Executed in a 40s style, the video showed Madonna at her classiest yet, in a Galliano dress she shone as the mistreated lover of a famous bullfighter, eventually running away from him. The storyline is interspersed with scenes of bullfighting and Madonna showing her assets in bed, not entirely abandoning the explicit Erotica years. The gorgeous video would go onto winning the Best Female Video at the 1995 VMAs and yielded a follow up in the form of the You'll See video where Madonna has the higher hand and escapes from her stalker.
While the video undoubtedly gave the single the push to become a classic, the ballad also stands on its own merits with its Oriental-tingled instrumentation (which is also inspired by the Paul Robeson version of the classic poem "Trees"), Craig Armstrong's amazing string arrangement and Madonna's silky smooth vocals backed by co-writer/co-producer Babyface, one of the most famous hitmakers at the time.
But it's the song's chart performance that made it a remarkable entry in Madonna's career. All formats of the single were released days after the video premiere and both sales and airplay would slowly and steadily climb until the end of January, when Madonna gave her first and so far only live performance of the song at the American Music Awards (the only time she sang at this show). Dressed in a Chinese gown, Madonna gave a simple but effective performance backed by an orchestra and Babyface himself, which gave great exposure to the song in the US and soon after it would climb to #1, kicking the Dallas Austin produced "Creep" by TLC from the top spot and holding it for seven weeks, which would be the longest ever for a Madonna single. While the sales of Take A Bow exceeded 600,000 copies in the US which earned it a Gold certification, it failed to reach the Platinum status of her other megahits as it was airplay where the track was really shining: it was the most played song of America for nine straight weeks. The success of the single also helped the album to stop falling down the chart and it managed to stay in the Top 20 during the Christmas season, which would eventually become the only reason why Bedtime Stories outsold Erotica in the US, as after Take A Bow started its slow descent on the charts, the album went with it and subsequent single releases didn't have much effect.
Outside the US the single also became a big hit in Canada, Japan and Australia, her other main markets of the 90s. In Europe, however, Madonna got some of her worst chart positions ever when this single got lost in the Christmas shuffle, like in Belgium, or in the UK, where it was her then-lowest peaking single and is one of the six Madonna singles that failed to reach the UK Top 10. Madonna gave 2 lip-synced performances of Take A Bow at Germany's Wetten Dass and Italy's San Remo which gave better chart performances in those countries.
The success of Take A Bow allowed it to become one of the 4 songs in Madonna's discography that can be found on 4 different Madonna albums. Featuring on all the compilations released after the single itself, proves that among all of Madonna's ballad hits of the mid-90s, Take A Bow is the pinnacle.
Unfortunately Take A Bow has never been performed live on a Madonna tour and is the only one out of the 34 hits of the Celebration compilation that was not used on a tour in any form. It is speculated that Madonna intentionally refuses to perform songs on her tours that have a "goodbye" theme. Maybe Madonna is saving Take A Bow to be her last ever live performance? Time will tell...
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