Rewinding the Charts: In 1995, Madonna Took a 'Bow' at No. 1
The Material Girl traded "Sex" for romance and scored a personal best with "Take a Bow."
MADONNA'S LONGEST RUN AT NO. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 didn't take place until more than 11 years after her first chart hit.
On Feb. 25, 1995, her romantic R&B-flavored ballad "Take a Bow" began a seven-week reign atop the ranking. Co-written with Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds, the track vaulted to No. 1 in the wake of the pair's performance of the song at the American Music Awards.
"Take a Bow," which was the second single from then-36-year-old Madge's 1994 Bedtime Stories album, showcased a kinder, gentler Queen of Pop following a few years of boundary-smashing, she-did-what? exhibitionism that no contemporary pop star of her stature has topped. In 1992, she released the album Erotica and its controversial Sex picture book tie-in, followed by the lurid 1993 movie flop Body of Evidence. An F-bomb-filled appearance on CBS' Late Show With David Letterman in 1994 also made headlines.
Bedtime Stories was a much more commercial release that, in addition to "Take a Bow," spawned three Hot 100 entries: "Secret" (the set's No. 3-peaking lead single), "Bedtime Story" and "Human Nature." It also outsold Erotica in the United States — 2.3 million vs. 1.9 million, according to Nielsen Music — and was nominated for a best pop album Grammy Award, Madonna's first nod for an LP.
"Take a Bow" also topped Billboard's Radio Songs, Pop Songs and Adult Contemporary charts (and crossed to a No. 40 peak on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs), but, despite its success, Madonna, now 57, didn't perform the song in concert until just recently: Feb. 4 on her Rebel Heart Tour in Taipei, Taiwan. She introduced the number by saying, "I'd like to sing a song especially for Taiwan — a song that I have never sung before ever, ever, ever in concert."
Afterward, she told the cheering crowd, "A few bad notes, but it felt good to sing it. Finally."
A version of this article first appeared in the Feb. 27 issue of Billboard magazine.