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Holiday (Madonna song)

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Side-A label of American 7" vinyl single
Single by Madonna
from the album Madonna
B-side "I Know It"
"Think of Me" (UK)
"True Blue" (UK, 1991)
Released September 7, 1983
Recorded February 1983[1]
Studio Sigma Sound Studios
(New York City, New York)
Length 6:08
  • Curtis Hudson
  • Lisa Stevens
Producer(s) John "Jellybean" Benitez
Madonna singles chronology
"Burning Up"
"Lucky Star"
"Burning Up"
"Lucky Star"
Alternative cover art
The black-and-white picture of the engine of a train. A symbol of a white arrow is present at the center of the engine's front. The words "Golden Arrow" are written on the arrow. A couple walks beside the engine on the platform, the man carrying a suitcase. On the top-right corner of the image, the words "Madonna" and "Holiday" are written in white, on bright red stripes.
One of UK edition cover arts
Music video
"Holiday" (audio only) on YouTube

"Holiday" is a song recorded by American singer Madonna for her eponymous debut album Madonna (1983). Sire Records released it as the album's third single in September 7, 1983. "Holiday" later appeared remixed on the remix compilation You Can Dance (1987) and the greatest hits compilation The Immaculate Collection (1990), and in its original form on the greatest hits album Celebration (2009). Written by Curtis Hudson and Lisa Stevens of Pure Energy, the track was offered to Madonna by her producer John "Jellybean" Benitez when she was looking for a potential hit track to include in her debut album. After accepting the song, she and Jellybean worked on it and altered its composition by the addition of a piano solo performed by their friend, Fred Zarr.

"Holiday" features instrumentation from guitars, electronic handclaps, a cowbell, and a synthesized string arrangement, while its lyrics speak about the universal sentiment of taking a holiday. Universally acclaimed by critics, the song became Madonna's first mainstream hit single in the United States, peaking at number 16 on the Billboard Hot 100. It also became her first top-ten single in several countries, including Australia, Belgium, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Madonna has performed "Holiday" on most of her tours and it is generally included as a part of the encore. Different performances of the song are included in the recorded releases of her tours. Cover versions by a number of artists have been released, and it has also appeared in the soundtrack of sitcoms like Will & Grace.


In 1983, Madonna was recording her eponymous debut album with Warner Bros. Records producer Reggie Lucas, after Sire Records green-lit it when her first single "Everybody" became a club hit.[4] However, she did not have enough material for the album.[5] Lucas brought two new songs to the project and John "Jellybean" Benitez, a DJ at Funhouse disco was called to remix the available tracks. In the meantime, due to conflict of interest, Madonna's collaborator on "Everybody", Steve Bray had sold another song "Ain't No Big Deal" to an act on another label, rendering it unavailable for Madonna's project.[5]

It was Benitez who discovered a new song written by Curtis Hudson and Lisa Stevens of the pop group Pure Energy.[6] The song, titled "Holiday", had been turned down by Phyllis Hyman and Mary Wilson, formerly of The Supremes.[7] Jellybean and Madonna sent the demo to their friend, Fred Zarr so he could embellish the arrangement and program the song with his synthesizer magic. After the vocals were added by Madonna, Benitez spent four days and tried to enhance the commercial appeal of the track before the April 1983 deadline.[5][7] Just before it was completed, Madonna and Benitez met Fred Zarr at Sigma Sound in Manhattan [1] where Zarr added the now familiar piano solo towards the end of the track.[6]


Initially it was decided that "Lucky Star" would be released as a single; instead "Holiday" was released in the U.S. when the latter became a dance hit.[5] The original British cover art for "Holiday" did not carry Madonna's picture since Sire did not want the British people to find out that she was not a R&B artist. Instead it carried the picture of a train station and an engine.[5] "Holiday" was later remixed in dub and groove versions for the 1987 remix album You Can Dance[8] It also appeared in her first greatest hits compilation, The Immaculate Collection, in a remixed and shortened form.[9] During a 2005 interview with CBS News, Madonna said that "Holiday" was her favourite among all her songs.[10]

In the United Kingdom, "Holiday" has been released three times as a single; in January 1984, reaching number six, re-issued in August 1985 reaching number 2 (only being kept from number one by her own "Into the Groove" single). It was re-released with new artwork in 1991 to promote The Immaculate Collection with a limited edition EP titled The Holiday Collection, which contained tracks omitted from the compilation; this version reached number five. Although the song was released to promote the greatest hits collection, it did not include the shorter remix from the album, instead it included the original album version from Madonna (1983).[11] The photography used for the 1991 release was by Steven Meisel and had previously been used for the February 1991 cover for Vogue Italia.[12]


Musically, "Holiday" is set in the time signature of common time with a medium tempo of 116 beats per minute.[13] The song is composed in the key of D major and is six minutes seven seconds in length.[13] Madonna's vocal range spans from B3 to C5. The song follows in the chord progression of G–A–A–Bm in the first line, when Madonna sings "Holiday!" and changes to G–A–Fm–G in the second line, when Madonna sings "Celebrate!".[13] The four bar sequence of the progression continues and features instrumentation from guitars, electronic handclaps, cowbell played by Madonna,[1] and a synthesized string arrangement. A side-by-side repetitive progression is achieved by making use of the chorus.[14] Towards the end of the song, a change in the arrangement happens, where a piano break is heard. Lyrically the song expresses the universal sentiment—that everybody needs a holiday.[14]

Critical reception[edit]

Author Rikky Rooksby in his book The Complete Guide to the Music of Madonna commented that "'Holiday' was as infectious as the plague. One listen and you could not get the damn hook out of your mind."[14] Jim Farber of Entertainment Weekly commented that "Holiday" satisfied the musical ear of both the sides of the Atlantic.[15] While reviewing The Immaculate Collection album, David Browne from Entertainment Weekly commented that "Holiday" was a "spunky dance-beat trifle". He also complimented the song's expert production.[16]

Mary Cross in her biography of Madonna, described "Holiday" as "a simple song with a fresh appeal and a good mood."[17] Sal Cinquemani of Slant Magazine described the song as airy.[18] Stephen Thomas Erlewine from AllMusic called it effervescent and one of the great songs of the Madonna album.[19] While reviewing The Immaculate Collection, he called it one of her greatest hits.[20] Don Shewey of Rolling Stone commented that the simple lyrics of the song sound clever.[21]

Commercial performance[edit]

"Holiday" was released on September 7, 1983, and became Madonna's first hit single and remained on the charts from the timespan of Thanksgiving to Christmas in 1983.[7][22] It was Madonna's first song to enter the Billboard Hot 100, at 88 on the issue dated October 29, 1983.[23] and reached a peak of 16 on January 28, 1984 and was on the chart for 21 weeks.[24] The song debuted at eight on the Hot Dance Club Play chart on the issue dated November 2, 1983 and was Madonna's first number one single on the Hot Dance Club Play chart remaining at the top for five weeks. It was released with "Lucky Star" as a double-A side single.[5][25] The song also made an entry in the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart and peaked at 25, remaining on the chart for 20 weeks.[26] In Canada, the song debuted at number 48 position of the RPM singles chart on January 21, 1984[27] and peaked at number 39.[28] The song again entered the chart at number 45 in March 1984,[29] and peaked at number 32 on April 1984.[30] It was present on the chart for a total of 12 weeks.[31]

In the United Kingdom, "Holiday" was released in 1984 whence it charted and reached a peak of six on the chart. However, a re-release in 1985 with "Think of Me" on the B-side, saw the song enter the charts at number 32 and reached a new peak of two on the chart, being held off the number one spot by Madonna's own "Into the Groove", while being present for ten weeks. Another re-release in 1991 saw the song reach a peak of five on the chart.[11] The song was certified gold by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) in August 1985,[32] and according to the Official Charts Company, "Holiday" has sold 717,600 copies there as of August 2016.[33] Across Europe, the song reached the top ten of Belgium, Netherlands, Germany and Ireland[34][35][36][37] while reaching the top 40 in France, Italy, Sweden and Switzerland.[38][39][40][41] It also made the top five in Australia.[42] The song debuted at number 37 on the New Zealand Singles Chart, making it Madonna's debut chart appearance in the country. It peaked at number seven.[40]

Live performances[edit]

Madonna has performed "Holiday" on almost all of her tours, namely The Virgin Tour, Who's That Girl, Blond Ambition, The Girlie Show, Drowned World, Re-Invention, Sticky & Sweet Tour and Rebel Heart Tour. In 1984, Madonna performed Holiday on the hit dance show American Bandstand with Dick Clark.[17] Madonna then added it to the set list of her 1985 Virgin Tour. It was performed as the second song of the tour.[43] The same year she performed the song at the Live Aid benefit concert in Philadelphia in July.[44]

Madonna in a polka dotted blouse and white pants singing onstage
Madonna performing "Holiday" on the Blond Ambition World Tour in 1990

The Who's That Girl World Tour in 1987 had Madonna performing "Holiday" as the last song of the tour. Madonna performed an energetic version of the song, signalling the celebratory and wholesome nature of the song's theme.[45] She sang the final chorus twice, and on some dates asked the audience for a comb so that she could fix her hair and finished the performance.[46] Two different performances are found in Ciao Italia: Live from Italy tour video filmed at Stadio Communale in Turin, Italy on September 4, 1987[46] and the Who's That Girl: Live in Japan tour video filmed at Korakuen Stadium in Tokyo, Japan on June 22, 1987.[47]

For the Blond Ambition World Tour in 1990, Madonna said, "I wanted to throw an old song for fun, and 'Holiday' seemed to be a universal favourite. In addition to that it's one of the only old songs I've done that I can still sing and not feel I've totally outgrown it."[48] Performing it as a part of the encore, Madonna appeared on the stage in a polka-dotted blouse with matching flounces at the bottom of white trousers and hair in a top knot with a ponytail.[49] The costume was adopted from a My Fair Lady dress and was designed by Jean-Paul Gaultier. Three different performances are found in the Blond Ambition: Japan Tour 90 VHS, the Blond Ambition World Tour Live VHS and the Truth or Dare documentary. The performance included in the documentary was used as a music video to promote it.[50][51][52] The performance received four nominations at the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards, including Best Female Video, Best Dance Video, Best Choreography in Video and Best Cinematography in Video, but did not win any of the categories.[53]

In The Girlie Show in 1993, the song was performed in an alternate version as the second to last song of the tour.[54] It had a military theme to it.[55] Halfway through the performance Madonna paused the song for a military drill with the dancers and the audience.[56] The performance met with strong reaction in Puerto Rico, when Madonna rubbed the Puerto Rican national flag between her legs in between the performance.[57] For the Drowned World Tour in 2001 Madonna wore a fur coat, velvet fedora and a customised Dolce & Gabbana T-shirt which proclaimed 'Mother' in the front and 'F*cker' in the back painted in silver. This demonstrated her ghetto-girl appearance adopted for the song's performance.[58]

Madonna in a red hat and blue jacket with a red-and-blue flag wrapped around her performing onstage
Madonna performing "Holiday" as the encore of the Rebel Heart Tour in 2015.

In the Re-Invention Tour in 2004, the song was again performed as the ending song of the tour.[59] The song was given a tribal feeling with Madonna wearing Scottish kilts during the performance.[60] The performance started with Madonna and her dancers doing a dance routine in front of the stage, then Madonna going on the revolving tiers of the stage to sing the song as confetti fell from above.[59] The performance was included in the I'm Going to Tell You a Secret live album and documentary.[61] Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic commented that the performance "feels like they could fit the Eurotrash, campy retro-disco feel of Confessions."[62]

The song was added to the 2009 leg of her Sticky & Sweet Tour. It replaced the song "Heartbeat" from Hard Candy and was used as a tribute to singer Michael Jackson who died a week prior to the start of the second leg of the tour.[63][64] As Madonna sang the song, a picture of a young Jackson appeared on stage, followed by a Jackson impersonator wearing garments in Jackson style.[64] The music then switched to a medley of his songs, like "Billie Jean" and "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'", and the impersonator worked through his moves, including the moonwalk as well as the spinning and gyrating.[65] Madonna clapped her hands, swayed from side to side and jumped up and down while images of Jackson over the years flashed on a big screen.[65] After the performance, Madonna told the crowd, "Let's give it up for one of the greatest artists the world has ever known," and the crowd applauded.[64]

The song was the closing number to Madonna's Rebel Heart Tour in 2015–2016, it included an excerpt from Bob James' cover of "Take Me to the Mardi Gras".[66] She performed the song while she's wrapped with the country's flag. She exits from stage while she's levitated by a harness and rope.[67] The performance was included in the live album Rebel Heart Tour recorded in Sydney, Australia, and released in September 2017.[66]

Covers and media appearance[edit]

British synthpop band Heaven 17 recorded a cover for the 1999 compilation Virgin Voices Vol. 1: A Tribute To Madonna.[68] In 2002, Mad'House recorded a Club cover of the song for their album Absolutely Mad.[69] Girl Authority covered the song in 2007 for their album, Road Trip.[70] In 1986, Dutch rap duo MC Miker G & DJ Sven released "Holiday Rap", a song which sampled the tune and chorus of Madonna's "Holiday". It achieved commercial success by peaking the charts in countries like France, Netherlands and Switzerland and going the top ten of Austria, Norway and Sweden.[71] The bassline of the song was sampled by The Avalanches for their 2000 album Since I Left You. It was used on the songs "Stay Another Season" and "Little Journey".[72]

The song was redone by the Will & Grace cast as "He's Hot" for the sitcom's soundtrack in 2004 and even includes vocal samples from Madonna herself. Almost all of the instrumental part of the song "He's Hot!" uses samples from the original song.[73] The Canadian teen drama Degrassi: The Next Generation, which is known for naming each episode after an 80s hit song, named a two-part episode after "Holiday".[74][75] In 2006, critics noted strong similarity between "Holiday" and American singer Jessica Simpson's single "A Public Affair".[76][77] When criticized for its unoriginality, Simpson told MTV: "I think people are ready to hear something that Madonna used to do. We all need to hear that every now and again. It wasn't a sample or something I meant to do, but she did influence me and still does today."[78] In 2008, "Holiday" appeared on the video game Karaoke Revolution Presents: American Idol Encore.[79] Kelis often performs a mash-up of her own hit "Milkshake" with "Holiday" live. In 2003, a snippet of the song appeared in the film Rugrats Go Wild, when the families went on their cruise.[80]

Track listing and formats[edit]

Credits and personnel[edit]

Credits adapted from the album liner notes.[1]

Charts and certifications[edit]

See also[edit]


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External links[edit]