“Take a Bow” is a song by American singer Madonna from her sixth studio album Bedtime Stories (1994). It was released as the album’s second single on October 28, 1994, by Maverick Records. It is a midtempo pop ballad written and produced by Madonna and Babyface. The song also appears on her compilation albums Something to Remember (1995), GHV2 (2001) and Celebration (2009). Following the sexually explicit persona portrayed by Madonna on her previous album, Erotica, the singer wanted to tone down her image for Bedtime Stories. She started collaborating with Babyface, whose work with other music artists had impressed her. “Take a Bow” was developed from this collaboration, after Madonna listened to the beat and the chords of the demo structure of the song.
Recorded at The Hit Factory Studios in New York, “Take a Bow” was backed by a full orchestra. It was also the first time that Babyface had worked with live strings, per Madonna’s suggestion. Containing oriental pentatonic strings, giving the impression of Chinese or Japanese opera, “Take a Bow” lyrically talks about unrequited love, and Madonna saying goodbye. It received favorable reviews from music critics, who praised the song’s soulful, poetic lyrics. It was a commercial success in the United States, becoming Madonna’s eleventh number-one single on the Billboard Hot 100, topping the chart for seven weeks. It also reached number one in Canada, and the top ten in Italy, Switzerland and New Zealand. The single had moderate success in the United Kingdom, reaching number 16 on the UK Singles Chart, ending Madonna’s record-holding string of 35 consecutive top-ten hits there.
The music video for “Take a Bow” was directed by Michael Haussman, and was filmed in Ronda, Spain. The video depicts Madonna as a bullfighter’s (played by real-life Spanish bullfighter Emilio Muñoz) neglected lover, yearning for his love. It won the Best Female Video award at the 1995 MTV Video Music Awards. Journalistic and academic analysis of the video included its plotline, usage of religious iconography, themes and motifs of feminism and submission, as well as its impact on contemporary music videos. In order to promote Bedtime Stories, Madonna performed “Take a Bow” on a few occasions, including live with Babyface at the 1995 American Music Awards. In 2016, she added the song to the setlist of the Asian and Oceanian legs of her Rebel Heart Tour and her one-off Sydney concert Tears of a Clown.