This song is about a failed romance Madonna had with "a movie star," possibly Warren Beatty, whom she starred opposite in the movie Dick Tracy
(1990) and had a 15-month relationship. Beatty, a notorious ladies' man, was also rumored to be the mysterious subject of Carly Simon's "You're So Vain
Babyface sang backup and also produced this track to give Madonna the R&B feel she wanted for the Bedtime Stories album. When the two met, they were quite impressed with each other in that neither of them swept in with a big entourage. They worked on this song and "Forbidden Love" at Babyface's house in his writing room.
In the States, this topped the Billboard charts, but in the UK is was a relative failure, reaching only #16 after 31 consecutive top 10 hits.
The title "Take A Bow" is only heard in the opening lyrics of the song.
Real-life Spanish bullfighter Emilio Munoz played Madonna's bullfighting lover in the music video for this song. He reprised his role in the video for "You'll See
," which was a sequel to this song.
At Madonna's suggestion, this song was recorded with a full orchestra. It was the first time Babyface had worked with live strings.
This song and its follow-up "You'll See" show two different sides of Madonna's personality. She explained to NME: "'Take A Bow,' lyrically it only reflects one side of my personality. I have that side which is completely masochistic and willing to, literally, do anything for love. But there's another side too which is – 'Don't f*** with me, I don't need anybody. I can do what I want' and 'You'll See' reflects that."
Justin Timberlake enlisted director Michael Haussman for his "SexyBack
" video because he was so impressed with his work on this song's video. He told MTV News in 2006: "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."
Britney Spears' 2009 "Radar
" music video is also a tribute to this song's video. Director Dave Meyers told MTV News: "[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."
Country singer Trisha Yearwood covered this song with Babyface on CMT's Crossroads in 2007.
This was featured in the season one finale of Friends, "The One Where Rachel Finds Out," when Rachel (Jennifer Aniston) discovers Ross (David Schwimmer) is in love with her. The song plays when she goes to the airport to meet him, only to be disappointed when he arrives with a new girlfriend.
Madonna and Babyface performed this together at the 1995 American Music Awards. Babyface remembers being a nervous wreck: "I had on some wide pants, so you couldn't tell, but my leg was shaking like crazy. And then after I told her, she said she was nervous too, which was amazing to me because it's Madonna."
After performing this at the American Music Awards in 1995, Madonna didn't sing it again live until February 4, 2016 at a concert in Taipei. She said to the audience afterward, "That was fun! First time ever. Hit a few bad notes, but it felt good to sing it."
This won Best Female Video at the 1995 MTV Video Music Awards.