What Is Madonna Trying To Tell Us With Her Rare & Unexpected Performance of “Take A Bow”?

Madonna never sings “Take A Bow” live. The only times she ever succumbed was when it was released as a single in 1995 and she felt compelled to promote it at the American Music Awards, the Sanremo Music Festival and on German TV show Wetten Das (amid some pretty dramatic set design choices–residual candles left over from Body of Evidence possibly). Ever since, Madonna has calculatedly shirked belting out one of her most beloved singles and ballads–until her February 4th concert in support of her Rebel Heart album in Taipei.

While most agree that the reason for her general avoidance of this song is to eschew rumors of her retirement (which one prays this abrupt performance isn’t an indication of), perhaps it’s more for due to the emotionally draining nature of singing such a song (though the equally as melancholy “Frozen” has been performed plenty of times in concert, specifically during the Drowned World Tour and the Re-Invention Tour). But maybe Madonna is trying to open up more subtly about the heartache she’s experiencing in the wake of her custody battle with Guy Ritchie over their 15-year-old son, Rocco.

We all know she has been plenty vocal about it in more direct ways while ribbing with the audience these past few Rebel Heart Tour dates, but it seems as though understatedness is working more effectively for her catharsis–and public acceptance. And only lyrics like, “Make them laugh/It comes so easy/When you get to the part where you’re breaking my heart” can accurately sum up what the actions of the Ritchies are doing to her. Whatever the reason for her uncharacteristic selection of this track, one can only hope she keeps it up on other dates of what has thus far been quite a headline-grabbing tour.