Background and release
co-wrote and co-produced "Take a Bow" with Madonna
Following the release of Madonna's first book publication, Sex, the erotic thriller, Body of Evidence, her fifth studio album, Erotica, as well as her infamous TV interview with David Letterman in the early-to-mid 1990s, the media and public's backlash against Madonna's overtly sexual image was at a peak. Madonna wanted to tone down her explicit image. Her first attempt was to release the tender ballad "I'll Remember" from the soundtrack of the film With Honors. Musically, she wanted to move in a new musical direction and started exploring new-jack R&B styles with a generally mainstream, radio-friendly sound. It was included on her sixth studio album, Bedtime Stories, released in October 1994. In author Fred Bronson's The Billboard Book of Number 1 Hits, Madonna explained:
The idea going in was to juxtapose my singing style with a hardcore hip-hop sensibility and have the finished product still sound like a Madonna record. I began the process by meeting with the hip-hop producers whose work I most admired. It was important, if I were to use a variety of collaborators, that the end product sound cohesive and thematically whole. I wasn't interested in the variety pack approach.
After searching for prospective collaborators, Madonna chose to work with Babyface, whose previous work with artists like Whitney Houston, Boyz II Men, and Toni Braxton had resulted in successful smooth R&B songs. She was also fond of Babyface's song, "When Can I See You" from his third studio album For the Cool in You (1994). The singer's management called Babyface to set up a meeting and see if they wanted to work together. Once met, both were surprised by their camaraderie and wanted to write songs. Madonna came over to Babyface's house and after a couple of days they came up with two songs. One of them was based on a piece of music composed by Babyface, but he was not sure about its musical direction. He made Madonna listen to the composition, and she found a way to take the song forward. Babyface clarified that "[i]t was just a beat and the chords. From there we collaborated and built it up... I was living in Beverly Hills and I created a little studio in my house, so she came over there to write." Together they agreed that the first line of the song should be its title, and "Take a Bow" was written. The words were never repeated in the track again.
"Take a Bow" was released as the second single from Bedtime Stories on October 28, 1994, following "Secret". The maxi single release of the song included two remixes. According to Jose F. Promis of AllMusic, the first remix, known as the "In Da Soul" mix, gives the ballad a funkier, more urban feel while the second remix, known as the "Silky Soul Mix", is a little more "quiet storm" and "melancholy" than the first.