All The World Is a Stage

Take a Bow is a midtempo pop ballad with a “Sukiyaki”-like Japanese touch, performed by American singer-songwriter Madonna. It was released as the Bedtime Stories‘ second single on October 28, 1994. The song also appears on her compilation albums Something to Remember (1995), GHV2 (2001) and Celebration (2009).

Following the release Madonna’s first book publication, Sex, the erotic thriller, Body of Evidence, and the album, Erotica, in the early 1990s, the media and public’s backlash against Madonna’s overtly sexual image was at a peak. Released in early March, 1994, her first musical release after Erotica was the tender ballad I’ll Remember from the soundtrack of the film With Honors. When Madonna appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman on March 31, 1994 to promote the single, her coarse language and behavior—which was provocative, seemingly random at times, full of double entendres (at one point asking Letterman to sniff her panties), profanities, and ended with a refusal to leave the set—caused yet another large public controversy. Following this, Madonna decided to tone down her image and move her career into a new direction. Musically, she explored new-jack R&B styles with a generally mainstream, radio-friendly sound. This new R&B sound was reflected in Bedtime Stories. For Take a Bow, Madonna wanted a more “romantic vein” so she worked with Babyface on the track because he had proved himself to be very successful in his previous works with smooth R&B, working with other artists such as Whitney Houston, Boyz II Men, and Toni Braxton.

The chorus expresses the theme of saying goodbye to a lover who had taken her for granted. The title plays upon the verse in the song “all the world is a stage and everyone has their part,” a reference to the line by William Shakespeare in his play As You Like It, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women mere players”. In his book Madonna: An Intimate Biography, J. Randy Taraborrelli describes the song as a “somber, sarcastic, all-the-world’s-a-stage song about unrequited love… [about a subject] whose phoniness might have fooled everyone else, but not her.” He goes on to say that in the song Madonna tells the subject of her unrequited love to take a bow for “rendering a great, transparent performance in life and love.”

The music video for Take a Bow was directed by Michael Haussman, and is a lavish period-style piece filmed from November 3–8, 1994 in Ronda and in the bullring of Antequera, Spain. It was outfitted by famed stylist Lori Goldstein who received the VH1 Fashion and Media award for best styling. The plot, set in the 1940s, depicts Madonna as a neglected lover of a bullfighter, played by real-life Spanish bullfighter Emilio Muñoz. Madonna’s character yearns for the bullfighter’s presence, with erotic heartbreak. A total of three different bulls were used during the production of the music video. It generated controversy with animal rights activists who accused the singer of glorifying bullfighting.

 
 

 
 

In the video Madonna wears fitted, classic suits by British fashion designer John Galliano. In an interview with MTV’s Kurt Loder on the set of the music video, Madonna said that when she was initially writing Take a Bow the inspiration for the song was an actor, but she wanted the male character in the video to be to be a matador instead because she wanted the video to be about an “obsessive, tragic love story that doesn’t work out in the end” and a matador would be more visually effective in expressing the emotion of the song. The style of the music video has been compared to Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar‘s 1986 film Matador, starring Antonio Banderas.  The music video for Madonna’s 1995 single You’ll See is considered a follow up to the Take a Bow music video, as Madonna and Emilio Muñoz reprise their roles. In that video Madonna’s character walks out on Munoz’s (bullfighter) character, leaving him behind in despair. Madonna’s character is then seen on the train and later on a plane, while Munoz’s character tries to catch up with her in vain.

Madonna requested that Haussman give the video a Spanish theme because, at the time, she was lobbying for the role of Eva Perón in the film version of Evita. She subsequently sent a copy of the video to director Alan Parker as a way of “auditioning” for the role. Madonna eventually won the role of Perón.

The music video for Take a Bow inspired Justin Timberlake‘s video for SexyBack (Michael Haussman, 2006) and was later tributed by Britney Spears‘ video for “Radar” (Dave Meyers, 2009). Madonna won Best Female Video honors at the 1995 MTV Video Music Awards for the Take a Bow music video. It was also nominated for Best Art Direction in a Video, but lost to Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson‘s Scream.

To watch Take a Bow music video, please take a gander at The Genealogy of Style’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Genealogy-of-Style/597542157001228?ref=hlt

Giving Birth to a New Race

“The nexus of Born This Way and the soul of the record reside in this idea that you were not necessarily born in one moment. You have your entire life to birth yourself into becoming the ultimate potential vision that you see for you. Who you are when you come out of your mother’s womb is not necessarily who you will become. Born This Way says your birth is not finite, your birth is infinite.”

Lady Gaga
(talking about the meaning of Born This Way)

 
 

 
 

The first song written and recorded for the album was the title track itself which she wrote in Liverpool and Manchester, England, described by Lady Gaga as a “magical message” song. She wrote it in ten minutes and compared the process to an Immaculate Conception.

“I want to write my this-is-who-the-fuck-I-am anthem, but I don’t want it to be hidden in poetic wizardry and metaphors. I want it to be an attack, an assault on the issue because I think, especially in today’s music, everything gets kind of washy sometimes and the message gets hidden in the lyrical play. Hankering back to the early ’90s, when Madonna, En Vogue, Whitney Houston and TLC were making very empowering music for women and the gay community and all kind of disenfranchised communities, the lyrics and the melodies were very poignant and very gospel and very spiritual and I said, ‘That’s the kind of record I need to make. That’s the record that’s going to shake up the industry.’ It’s not about the track. It’s not about the production. It’s about the song. Anyone could sing Born This Way. It could’ve been anyone.”

Nick Knight directed the accompanying music video, which was inspired by painters like Salvador Dalí and Francis Bacon and their surrealistic images. Gaga is depicted as giving birth to a new race during a prologue. A series of dance sequences later, the video concludes with the view of a city populated by this race. Critics noted cultural references to the work of Madonna, Michael Jackson, Björk, late fashion designer Alexander McQueen, as well as to Greek mythology, magical realism and surrealism.

Laurieann Gibson explained the inspiration behind the video to MTV News:
“When she played it for me, it took me a while to find out the visual interpretation that I could give back to her. And so I woke up one night and I got it, and I said, ‘I got it: We have to birth a new race.’ From the gate, Gaga was like, ‘I want Nick Knight for this video. I want a visual.’ She was always birthing something visual in her head, and Nick Knight is just, well, he’s prolific but he’s so genius. It was about pushing the bar of what a music video should be and can be. […] It’s a different time; it’s a different era; there are no limits. It is a viral message. I think that there’s something in there for everyone, and that’s what’s so amazing about the video and so specific about the message.”

Released on Monday, February 28, 2011, the video begins with a brief shot of a unicorn’s silhouette in a steam-filled alley, inside a pink triangle frame. The triangle transitions to a shot of Gaga, with two opposite facing heads, inspired by Janus, the Roman god of transition and beginnings, sitting in an ornate glass throne amidst a star-filled space. As Bernard Herrmann‘s prelude to the movie Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958) plays, Gaga tells the story of the creation of an extraterrestrial race that “bears no prejudice, no judgment, but boundless freedom.” Gaga sits in the throne, giving birth to a “new race within the race of humanity.” She explains that this was followed by the birth of evil, due to which Gaga splits into two opposing forces of good and evil. Her new half gives birth to a machine gun and fires it. The prologue concludes with Gaga questioning, “How can I protect something so perfect, without evil?”

 
 

 
 

The video featured full-bodied tattooed model Rick Genest (Rico), better known by his stage name Zombie Boy. Gaga painted her face in a similar way to Genest, in one of the main series of sequences. She said that the sequences displayed the fact that she would not allow society or critics to dictate her sense of beauty. “I tell you what I think is beauty, and hence the scene was of me and Rico defining ourselves in artistic way and not relying on society to dictate it,” she added. The costumes for the video were designed by Nicola Formichetti, who blogged about the various designer pieces shown in it. In the opening sequence of the video, Gaga wore a head accessory by Alexis Bittar, a diamond neckpiece by Erickson Beamon with earrings by Pamela Love, and a stained-glass dress by Petra Storrs. Finger rings were provided by Erickson Beamon and chiffon clothes by Thierry Mugler. For the skeletons sequences, both she and Rico wore tuxedos by Mugler while the slime during the orgy scenes were courtesy of Bart Hess. For her Michael Jackson impression in the alley at the video’s end, Gaga wore shirt and pants by Haus of Gaga, shoes by Natacha Marro, a Billykirk belt and LaCrasia gloves.