All hail the pop queen: It’s Britney, bitch. The legend. The innovator. The one and only Mrs. Oh My God That Britney’s Shameless. The woman who’s built up one of the all-time great pop songbooks, even as the world keeps trying to dismiss her as a fluke. It’s crazy how we’re nearly 25 years into the Britney Era, yet people still underrate her artistic impact, because they fixate on her image or her fashion. But of all the gifts Britney Spears has given this planet, it’s her music that comes first.
So let’s celebrate that music. And let’s break it down: all 170 Britney songs, counted from the bottom to the top. The hits. The obscurities. The flops. The deep cuts, B-sides, bonus tracks, covers, duets, loosies, soda commercials. Her club classics. Her radio jams. Her buried treasures. “E-Mail My Heart.” All of it.
As Rolling Stone’s resident Britney expert since the TRL days, I’ve been writing raves about her brilliant music since “…Baby One More Time” was her only song. I got used to people telling me how wrong I was to praise her records to the skies — hell, Britney was one of those people. (How she laughed at me when I told her “Satisfaction” should be a single! Well, you called that one right, B.)
But she’s one of the most influential, innovative pop savants ever, with a massive impact on how music sounds now. It’s been a long-running kick to see her keep evolving, from MTV teen princess to Vegas diva to avant-disco pioneer. No matter how many times she gets written off as a joke, she always surges back, stronger than yesterday.
These days, people love to argue about Britney — her scandals, her controversies, her brave fight for independence. Yet it’s still so taboo to give her credit for her actual music, because people want to pretend she’s some kind of innocent bystander on her own hits. Sorry, but that’s just not credible, given the freakishly consistent sicker-than-the-remix excellence of her artistry. She’s always made the fizziest, splashiest, bestest pop tunes of the moment. I get why you might have issues with calling it “brilliance,” but I do not happen to share those issues — she’s on her own Mount Olympus of brilliance, and always has been. She deserves to be celebrated as one of history’s boldest pop visionaries, not just a case study in celebrity.
The songs on this list aren’t ranked by commercial success, just the level of Britney splendor. Every fan would compile a different list — that’s the beauty of it. You’re guaranteed to disagree, especially when you get to “Dear Diary.” Some of these songs are classics; some are total disasters; one is “E-Mail My Heart.” But let’s face it — they’re never boring. Britney does not do boring.
We’ve seen so many pretenders to her throne come and go. We’ll see more of them. People keep waiting for Britney to be over. They can keep waiting. When people stop claiming Britney’s over, I guess that’ll mean she’s finally over. But they won’t. And she won’t be. So thank you for these songs, Britney Spears. And gimme more.