Cherish (Madonna song)

Cherish (Madonna song)
A brunette looks towards the camera, as her middle-parted hair falls in waves beside her.
Single by Madonna
from the album Like a Prayer
B-side "Supernatural"
Released August 1, 1989
Format 7", 12", CD, cassette
Recorded 1988
Genre Pop
Length 5:03
Label Sire, Warner Bros.
Writer(s) Madonna, Patrick Leonard
Producer Madonna, Patrick Leonard
Madonna singles chronology
"Express Yourself"
"Oh Father"

"Cherish" is a song by American singer-songwriter Madonna. It was released as the third single from her fourth studio album Like a Prayer on August 1, 1989, by Sire Records. The song was also included on the 1990 compilation album The Immaculate Collection and the two-disc edition of her 2009 compilation titled Celebration. Written and produced by Madonna and Patrick Leonard, "Cherish" was built around the themes of love and relationship, with William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet being one of the major inspirations. The track also included a line from the similar titled song by the 1960s band The Association. Musically constructed as a doo-wop style pop song, "Cherish" is a light-hearted track that features instrumentation from drum machine, percussions, keyboards and a saxophone. Lyrically it is a simple love song, talking about Madonna's devotion and having her lover by her side, whom she would never leave.

After its release, "Cherish" received positive feedback from critics, who were surprised by the change of content and the lighter image of Madonna's music, unlike her previous singles from Like a Prayer. Comparisons to Juliet also ensued in Madonna's delivery of the lines and her "passionate" vocals. "Cherish" was also a commercial success, reaching the top-ten of the charts in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Ireland, Italy, United Kingdom and the combined European chart. On the Billboard Hot 100, "Cherish" became Madonna's sixteenth consecutive top-five single, a record in the Hot 100 history.

A black-and-white music video of the song was directed by photographer Herb Ritts at the Paradise Cove Beach in Malibu, California. In the video, Madonna played herself, while three co-actors were dressed as Mermen, swimming in and out of the sea. Academics noted how in the video, the Mermen became symbols for the homosexual community and the oppression faced by them. Madonna performed "Cherish" on her 1990 Blond Ambition World Tour, where the performance further included her dancers dressed up as Mermen. The performance was described as de-sexualizing men, relegating them as objects of desire only.



"Cherish" was written and produced by Madonna and Patrick Leonard, and was released as the third single from Like a Prayer (1989). The song is built around the themes of love and relationships, with William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet being one of the major inspirations.[1] Madonna was reading Romeo and Juliet during the breaks from the rehearsal of Speed the Plow, a Broadway show on which she was starring in 1988. On the third day of the Like a Prayer recording sessions, she presented Leonard with the lyrics of "Cherish", and explained that she had written the song "one sunny afternoon by the beach", but later confessed that it was actually written in her make-up room.[2] Leonard introduced one line from the the similar titled song by the 1960s band The Association, "Cherish is the word I use", after which Madonna decided to include it on Like a Prayer.[3] The Association was one of her favorite Motown bands.[4] The B-side of the single release of "Cherish" was a previously unreleased track called "Supernatural", composed during the recording sessions of her third studio album, True Blue (1986).[5] In 2009, during an interview with Rolling Stone, Madonna confessed that she had never been able to predict if her songs would be successful, irrespective of whether she liked it or not. She added that "Cherish" was one of the most "retarded" songs she had written, but it became a commercial success, thus exemplifying her previous statement.[6]


"Cherish" is a doo-wop style pop song and opened the second side of Like a Prayer.[5][7] It begins with the sound of synths and keyboard, as Madonna chirps the words "cherish, cherish". This is followed by the sound from drum machine as percussion and guitars accompany it.[5] During the bridge, Madonna sings the line "Cupid please take your aim at me", as the keyboard sound becomes pronounced. The drum changes its rhythm and Madonna moves into the chorus, "Cherish the joy, of always having you here by my side", as background vocals assist her singing. A bass guitar plays along her singing, changing semibreves near the end.[5] The second verse continues in the same way, with Madonna singing the line "Romeo and Juliet, they never felt this way I bet, So don't underestimate my point of view."[4]

As the second chorus ends, a saxophone starts playing as Madonna softly asks the listener, "Who? You! Can't get away, won't let you", followed by Leonard's The Association inspired line.[5] Background vocals continue repeating words over a horn, playing in B minor. The drums and the percussion start again and the chorus is sung twice, before fading out.[5] According to the sheet music published by Alfred Publishing Co. Inc., "Cherish" is composed in the time signature of common time, with a moderately fast tempo of 130 beats per minute.[8] Set in the key of D major, "Cherish" has Madonna singing between the tonal nodes of A3 to D5. The song follows the sequence of G/D–D–Em7–D in the beginning as its chord progression, which changes to D–Dm–C–Em7 during the verses and shifts to G–D/G–A–D/F in the chorus.[8]

The lyrics of "Cherish" makes it a simple love song, where Madonna talks about devotion and having her lover by her side, whom she would never leave.[9] According to semiotician Thomas Sebeok, "Cherish" is a song constructed fundamentally on titles and phrases from romantic pop hits of the past. The first verse is built on titles such as "Cupid" (Sam Cooke), "You Are My Destiny" (Paul Anka) and "I Can't Let Go" (The Hollies); later verses incorporate song titles like "Burning Love" (Elvis Presley) and "Two Hearts" (Bruce Springsteen). Other instances include The Association song reference and Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.[10] Richard Burt, author of Shakespeare After Mass Media, deduced that the lines on Rome and Juliet and "I Can't Let Go" makes the speaker alternate between assertiveness and dependency.[4] Sal Cinquemani from Slant Magazine felt that although "Cherish" was a "radiant" song invoking the pop music of the 60s, "in the grand pop scheme, [it] pales only in comparison to their glorious counterparts, making Like a Prayer one of the quintessential pop albums of all time."[11]

Critical reception

"'Cherish' was a particular triumph for the Madonna/Patrick Leonard partnership. A delightful confection of radio-ready proportions, the song had it all—strong, positive, remarkably dysfunction-free lyrics about love, a memorable, singalong vocal melody, and a tight, pungent rhythm arrangement. It remains, quite simply, one of the best songs Madonna has ever written; sweet and happy, but by no means corny, it's a perfectly constructed pop song which Madonna delivered beautifully, and with undeniably sassy charm. Indeed, if 'Cherish' had been released in the Sixties, it would have most likely emanated from Detroit's Motown or the New York song writing Mecca, the Brill Building."

—Biographer J. Randy Taraborrelli talking about "Cherish" in his book, Madonna: An Intimate Biography[1]

Wayne Robins from Newsday believed that the song exemplified the "kind of random pop we'd get if [postmodern author] William Burroughs were the program director of a Top 40 radio station."[10] Burt compared the song and Madonna's delivery of the lyrics with Shakespeare's Juliet, feeling that Madonna's persona demonstrated both autonomy and need. He also found that "Cherish" offered a reminiscence of Juliet's language in the play, especially the line, "Sweet so would I, Yet I should kill thee with much cherishing."[4] Allen Metz, one of the authors of The Madonna Companion, felt that "Cherish" as the opening song of the B-side of Like a Prayer, reaffirmed the sweet and happy romanticism that was missing from the A-side of the album. "As much a child of pop" he says, "as of the church, Madonna is restored by music's healing power, in this case with a mixture of classic sweet soul and L.A. pop moderne."[12] Lucy O'Brien, author of Madonna: Like an Icon, felt that the song was typical for Madonna's previous musical endeavors, and would have fit more comfortably in the "candycoated" True Blue album.[7] Music critic J. D. Considine, while reviewing the Like a Prayer album for Rolling Stone complimented the song for creating an effective balance, contrasting its lighthearted nature with the trauma of "Oh Father", the next song. Considine also found retro-rock references in the song.[13]

Freya Jarman-Ivens, one of the authors of Madonna's Drowned Worlds, felt that the song was one of the last work on pure romanticism by Madonna. "She should come back to the formula from time to time, but I guess she has moved beyond all of that," Jarman-Ivens added.[9] Carol Clerk, author of Madonnastyle noted that the "refreshing" nature of the song was particularly noticeable if one follows Madonna's catalog chronologically, especially embedded between the anthem like nature of the previous release, "Express Yourself", and the lament of the succeeding release, "Oh Father".[14] Scholar Maria Raha wrote in her book Cinderella's Big Score: Women of the Punk and Indie Underground that the song was full of "trite" lyrics.[15] Andy Goldberg from The Jerusalem Post said that "Cherish" took "Madonna back to her old stomping grounds, the lively bass line and lilting melodies of hit albums past."[16] Kevin Phinney from Austin American-Statesman was surprised by Madonna's contribution to the song and confessed that he "[found] it difficult to be believe that she even wrote this?" Phinney continued that he wanted Madonna to go in a more mature direction and compose songs musically similar to "Cherish".[17] Writing for The Washington Post, Richard Harrington explained that "while songs on Like a Prayer dealt with matters opening her heart, with 'Cherish' Madonna dealt with matters which were close to her heart."[18] This view was also shared by Ian Blair from Chicago Tribune who categorized the song as being sung for the "happy-go-lucky lovers and dreamers".[19] The Dallas Morning News' Lennox Samuels appreciated the light-hearted theme of the song and complimented Madonna and Leonard for not sticking with personal subject matters only on the album.[20] Dale Anderson from The Buffalo News opined that the song would become one of Madonna's most forgettable releases, but was also hopeful that it would not.[21] This opinion was shared by Don McCleese of Chicago Sun-Times, who added that "Cherish" was not something expected from Madonna at that point of time. McCleese was disappointed that Madonna went back to the "happy-go-lucky, lovey-dovey" kind of songs, which did not match her self-image.[22] Dan DeLuca from The Philadelphia Inquirer, while reviewing Madonna's Drowned World Tour in 2001, compared "Cherish" with songs by Chris Robinson, humorously adding that "only if he was gay he would sing something like that."[23]

Chart performance

In the United States, "Cherish" debuted at number 37 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. The next week it moved to number 28 on the chart, becoming the week's "greatest gainer" song.[24] After three weeks, as "Cherish" entered the top-five of Billboard Hot 100, music industry prognosticators theorized that the song would become Madonna's eighth number-one song on the Hot 100. However, the song started facing competition from fellow singer Janet Jackson's single "Miss You Much", which also moved into the top-ten the same week.[25] The popular media pitted the two women against each other and tried to create rivalry between them.[26] The song eventually peaked at number two on October 7, 1989, the same week "Miss You Much" topped the Hot 100.[27] "Cherish" became Madonna's sixteenth consecutive top-five single, a record in Hot 100 chart history.[28] It was present on the Hot 100 for a total of 15 weeks.[29] Unlike previous Madonna singles, "Cherish" was not a dance hit and did not make an appearance on the Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart, but was able to top the Hot Adult Contemporary chart, her third after "Live to Tell" and "La Isla Bonita".[30] "Cherish" also helped Madonna to win the "Top Adult Contemporary Artist" trophy at the 1989 Billboard Music Awards.[31] At the year-end charts of Billboard, "Cherish" ranked at number 59 on the Hot 100 and number 31 on the Adult Contemporary chart.[32][33] In Canada, "Cherish" debuted at number 80 on the RPM Singles Chart on August 14, 1989.[34] In its ninth week on the chart, the song reached number-one, staying there for two weeks.[35] The song was present on the chart for 17 weeks and was the ninth best-selling Canadian single for 1989.[36][37]

On September 1, 1989, "Cherish" was released in the United Kingdom and entered the UK Singles Chart at number 16.[38] The next week, the song moved to its peak position of number three, becoming Madonna's twenty-first top ten single in the United Kingdom.[39][40] According to The Official Charts Company, the song has sold 200,000 copies there.[41] "Cherish" entered the Australian Singles Chart at number 17 on September 17, 1989, and reached a peak of number four, staying on the chart for 16 weeks.[42] In the Netherlands, "Cherish" debuted at number 24 on the Dutch Top 40 chart,[43] and reached a peak of number 15, the next week.[44]

Music video

A long shot of a beach with houses in the distance.
The music video was shot at Paradise Cove Beach in Malibu, California.

"Cherish" features a black-and-white music video that was directed by Herb Ritts and was filmed in July 1989 at Paradise Cove Beach in Malibu, California. Its world-premiere took place on MTV on August 28, 1989.[45] Ritts was one of Madonna's preferred photographers at that time and so she asked him to direct the "Cherish" video. Ritts reportedly tried to talk her out of it saying, "But I'm a still photographer. I don't know anything about film." Undaunted, Madonna replied simply, "Well you have a few weeks to learn."[45] The video was conceptualized by Ritts, who wanted to portray a different species altogether. He narrowed on showing Merpeople in their natural habitat, but Madonna baulked at the idea. She wanted to be portrayed as herself, but keep the Mermen also.[45] Four male performers were signed for this, one of them being Tony Ward, who would become Madonna's boyfriend later.[45] There were four Merman tails created by Global Effects in North Hollywood, California, for the video.[45] Three full size tails for the mermen were cast in a solid highly flexible rubber, each weighing around 40 lbs. This was necessary to make them neutrally buoyant in the water aslighter tails would have meant the tails would float, causing the swimmers to be head down inside.[45] Once in these tails, the polo players needed to be carried to and from the water and once inside, they had tremendous swimming power and agility. This was partly due to a plastic spring like armature cast into the flipper of each tail.[45] One of the reason that this video was shot in black and white was because the water was very cold, causing Madonna's already pale complexion to look even whiter.[46]

Fouz derived a relationship between music and image in the video for "Cherish", saying that it can exist in all degrees of concordance. He believed that the continuous connection established between the music video and the song itself contributed to an important aspect of music videos—that they encourage the viewer to watch them repeatedly.[47] Fouz talked about the balancing of height and depth occuring in the video. Visual arcs and its phrasing in the video were preceded by Ritts still photography known as "The Male Nude Bubble", which bore similarity to the concept of "Cherish". Many of the qualities of the balance in the photos seemed to him to have been extended in time and placed in relation to the song.[47] Carol Vernallis, author of Experiencing Music Video, found homoerotic connotations between Madonna and the Mermen. The Mermen in the video exist in a self-contained world of their own, where they procreate with their own kind, both biologically and socially. The fact that the Mermen did not seem to possess genitalia led Vernallis to believe that it associated them with Ritts' other works, homoerotic sculptural images without penis.[48] Their tails drew different meanings, including sexual ones and Christian symbolism. Since in contemporary art, the images of Mermen are rare and Mermaids are prominent, they are sometimes called fairies partly because it is not known how they came to be.[48] Vernallis believed that the mysteriousness and the elusiveness of the mermen in the video played a crucial role. They never address the camera directly and are often shown disappearing from view.[48] Vernallis believed that since invisibility is a central theme in the homosexual community, this actually portrayed oppression and also the desire to watch but never be seen.[48]

Live performance and covers

Madonna has performed "Cherish" live only once, on her 1990 Blond Ambition World Tour. Onstage, the performance portrayed the sequence from the music video, with the appearance of three of Madonna's dancers, dressed as mermen.[49] Author Carol Clerk noted in her book Madonnastyle that the outfit worn by the singer during this sequence was the simplest and the softest costume of the show. It consisted of a black mini-dress trimmed and stitched with a stuffed West African stork, called the marabou.[49] Madonna gyrated around her dancers, while playing with a harp. During the chorus, the dancers lifted their prosthetic fish-tails and joined them with each other.[49] Guilbert felt that the performance de-sexualizes men, since they are relegated to as only objects of adoration, like the three mermen dancers.[50] This view was shared by Mark Bego, author of Madonna: Blonde Ambition, who said that "Madonna and her girls go into a very girlish mode, but they give the feeling that they are in charge, be it paying with the mermen, or teasing them."[51] Two different performances were taped and released on video, the Blond Ambition – Japan Tour 90, taped in Yokohama, Japan, on April 27, 1990,[52] and the Live! – Blond Ambition World Tour 90, taped in Nice, France, on August 5, 1990.[53]

The late Brazilian singer Renato Russo included an acoustic cover of the song on his 1994 album The Stonewall Celebration Concert. His version was appreciated by Alvaro Neder of Allmusic.[54] The 2000 compilation album Virgin Voices: A Tribute To Madonna, Vol. 2 contains a cover by worldbeat group Loop Guru.[55] An alternative rock cover of the song by The Prayers was included on the 2007 Madonna tribute compilation Through the Wilderness.[56]

Track listing and formats

  1. "Cherish" (7" version) – 4:03
  2. "Supernatural" – 5:12
  • US and Canada 7" Promo Vinyl single[60][61]
  1. "Cherish" (Fade) – 4:03
  2. "Cherish" (LP Version) – 5:03
  3. "Supernatural" – 5:12
  • UK 7" vinyl single[62]
  1. "Cherish" – 5:03
  2. "Supernatural" – 5:12
  • US 12" vinyl single[63]
  1. "Cherish" (extended version) – 6:18
  2. "Cherish" (7" version) – 4:03
  3. "Supernatural" – 5:12

Credits and personnel

Credits and personnel adapted from Like a Prayer album liner notes.[64]

Charts and certifications

Weekly charts

Chart (1989) Peak
Australian Singles Chart[42] 4
Austrian Singles Chart[42] 16
Belgian VRT Top 30[65] 7
Canadian RPM Singles Chart[35] 1
Dutch Top 40[44] 15
Eurochart Hot 100 Singles[66] 3
French Singles Chart[42] 15
German Singles Chart[67] 16
Irish Singles Chart[68] 2
Italian Singles Chart[69] 3
Norwegian Singles Chart[42] 10
Spanish Singles Chart[70] 10
Swiss Singles Chart[42] 10
UK Singles Chart[39] 3
US Billboard Hot 100[71] 2
US Hot Adult Contemporary[72] 1

Year-end charts

Charts (1989) Position
Australian Singles Chart[73] 47
Canadian RPM Singles Chart[37] 9
US Billboard Hot 100[32] 59
US Hot Adult Contemporary[33] 31

See also


  1. ^ a b Taraborrelli 2002, p. 170
  2. ^ Morton 2002, p. 90
  3. ^ Pendle 2001, p. 412
  4. ^ a b c d Burt 2002, p. 258
  5. ^ a b c d e f Rooksby 2004, p. 34–35
  6. ^ Scaggs, Austin (2009-10-14). "Madonna Looks Back: The New Issue of Rolling Stone". Rolling Stone (Jann Wenner). Retrieved 2011-09-01. 
  7. ^ a b O'Brien 2007, p. 120
  8. ^ a b Ciccone, Madonna; Leonard, Patrick (1989). "Digital Sheet Music – Madonna – Cherish". Alfred Publishing Co. Inc.. 
  9. ^ a b Fouz-Hernández & Jarman-Ivens 2004, p. 181
  10. ^ a b Robins, Wayne (1989-03-19). "The Power of 'Prayer' Shareholders in Madonna Inc. should be delighted". Newsday (News Corporation): p. 3. Retrieved 2011-08-10. 
  11. ^ Cinquemani, Sal (2003-10-11). "Madonna: Like a Prayer". Slant Magazine. Retrieved 2011-08-20. 
  12. ^ Metz & Benson 1999, p. 13
  13. ^ Considine, J. D. (1989-04-06). "Madonna: Like a Prayer". Rolling Stone (Jann Wenner). Retrieved 2011-08-14. 
  14. ^ Clerk 2002, p. 83
  15. ^ Raha 2002, p. 113
  16. ^ "Madonna Says It All". The Jerusalem Post (Mirkaei Tikshoret). 1989-04-07. Retrieved 2011-08-20. 
  17. ^ Phinney, Kevin (1989-03-22). "`Like A Prayer' gives Madonna a vehicle for confession". Austin American-Statesman (Cox Enterprises). Retrieved 2011-08-20. 
  18. ^ Harrington, Richard (1989-03-21). "Recordings: Madonna's Power of `Prayer'; Sorting Out the Pains of the Past". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2011-08-20. 
  19. ^ Blair, Ian (1989-03-19). "Madonna, seriously Her new album asserts the power of `Prayer'". Chicago Tribune (Tribune Company). Retrieved 2011-08-20. 
  20. ^ Samuels, Lennox (1989-03-26). "Madonna Opens Up". The Dallas Morning News (A. H. Belo Corporation). Retrieved 2011-08-20. 
  21. ^ Anderson, Dale (1989-03-21). "Madonna's Prayer Is Older, Wiser And On The Serious Side". The Buffalo News (Berkshire Hathaway). Retrieved 2011-08-21. 
  22. ^ McCleese, Don (1989-03-27). "Madonna's newest album, `Like a Prayer,' is her best". Chicago Sun-Times (Sun-Times Media Group). Retrieved 2011-08-21. 
  23. ^ DeLuca, Dan (2001-07-16). "The pop tart returns – but this time, in tartan". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Philadelphia Media Network. Retrieved 2011-08-20. 
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  45. ^ a b c d e f g Hayward, Philip (2003). "Desire Caught By Its Tail: The Unlikely Return of the Merman in Madonna's 'Cherish'". The Cultural Studies Journal 5: 98. 
  46. ^ Fouz 2004, p. 313
  47. ^ a b Fouz 2004, p. 312
  48. ^ a b c d Vernallis, p. 234
  49. ^ a b c Clerk 2002, p. 84
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  51. ^ Bego 2000, p. 89
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  55. ^ Phares, Heather. "Virgin Voices: A Tribute to Madonna, Vol. 2 – Various Artists". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 2011-11-14. 
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  63. ^ (1989) Release notes for "Cherish" by Madonna (US 12-inch Single liner notes). Sire Records (0-21326).
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  65. ^ "Radio Top 30 – Hoogste – Cherish" (in Dutch). VRT Top 30. Retrieved 2011-09-01. 
  66. ^ "Hits of the World: European Hot 100 Singles". Billboard (Nielsen Business Media, Inc) 98 (41): 58. 1989-07-25. ISSN 0006-2510. 
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  • Burt, Richard (2002), Shakespeare After Mass Media, Palgrave Macmillan, ISBN 9780312294540 
  • Clerk, Carol (2002), Madonnastyle, Omnibus Press, ISBN 0711988749 
  • Dickerson, James (1998), Women On Top: The Quiet Revolution That's Rocking the American Music Industry, Billboard Books, ISBN 9780823084890 
  • Fouz-Hernández, Santiago; Jarman-Ivens, Freya (2004), Madonna's Drowned Worlds, Ashgate Publishing, Ltd, ISBN 0754633721 
  • Guilbert, Georges-Claude (2002), Madonna as postmodern myth, McFarland, ISBN 0786414081 
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  • Raha, Maria (2005), Cinderella's Big Score: Women of the Punk and Indie Underground, Seal Press, ISBN 9781580051163 
  • Rooksby, Rikky (2004), The Complete Guide to the Music of Madonna, Omnibus Press, ISBN 0-7119-9883-3 
  • Salaverri, Fernando (2005), Sólo éxitos: año a año, 1959–2002, Spain: Fundación Autor-SGAE, ISBN 8480486392 
  • Taraborrelli, Randy J. (2002), Madonna: An Intimate Biography, Simon and Schuster, ISBN 9781416583462 

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