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Every Britney Spears Song Ranked

The world keeps counting her out, and Britney keeps coming back stronger than ever. So let’s celebrate one of the most influential artists of the last 25 years by counting down every song she’s ever done — from world-changing hits to under-appreciated classics to “E-Mail My Heart.”

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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.

From Rolling Stone US

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‘Brightest Morning Star’ (2013)

A sincere attempt at capturing the pathos of Madonna’s “Little Star,” though it could have used a few more minutes of effort in the songwriting department.

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‘Where Are You Now’ (2000)

A reject from her debut, exhumed for the second album. Points deducted for the line “close the doors of doubt.”

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‘Shadow’ (2003)

In the Zone was such a shocking departure for Britney at the time, going full-tilt into club smut and burning her Mouseketeer bridges. A true visionary, doing true visionary shit. “Shadow” is the only hedged bet on the album — a wretched Matrix ballad the label could take to radio in case her dance experiments failed. But fortunately, her experiments didn’t fail — quite the opposite, as you’ll see way up on this list — so “Shadow” just got left behind by history.

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‘(Drop Dead) Beautiful,’ feat. Sabi (2011)

Best moment: the feline “Oooow” that kicks it off.

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‘Someday (I Will Understand)’ (2005)

Britney, awaiting the birth of her first child, prays for insight into “God’s plan.” But truth be told, the Lord would probably rather listen to “Toxic” like the rest of us.

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‘Hold On Tight’ (2013)

Even though Britney Jean was stronger than people gave it credit for, they sure made her sing a shitload of goopy ballads, which isn’t really her jam.

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‘Trip to Your Heart’ (2011)

You know the scene in The Godfather when Marlon Brando weeps over Sonny’s body and says, “Look how they massacred my boy”? Part of being a Britney fan is feeling that way at least once per album. “Trip to Your Heart” on Femme Fatale — why? How did this happen? Who would do such a thing to her? We never wanted this for you, Britney.

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‘What You Need’ (2016)

If only she covered the INXS song — or even better, “Devil Inside” or “Don’t Change.” Or “Never Tear Us Apart”? “New Sensation”?

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‘What’s Going On’ with Various Artists (2001)

A celebrity charity video for “Artists United Against AIDS Worldwide,” produced by Jermaine Dupri and Bono, with a brief Britney cameo. 

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Til It’s Gone’ (2013)

“You never know what you got till it’s gone”? Guess this is the closest we’ll get to a Joni/Britni duet.

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‘Don’t Cry’ (2013)

Another chintzy ballad from the botched second half of Britney Jean. Her “Don’t Cry” doesn’t even compare to Axl Rose’s.

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‘Now That I Found You’ (2013)

One of the weirdest production disasters in her entire catalog. For the first 90 seconds or so, “Now That I Found You” is a sparse love ballad, with subtle U2-style guitar, not far from what Taylor Swift did on “Tis the Damn Season.” So promising! Then somebody opens the wrong door and it turns into the fugliest goddamn faux-Abba disco-polka jingle you’ve ever heard in your life. Britney deserves a do-over, not to mention an apology from the producers. 

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‘I Run Away’ (2001)

There’s a bloody brilliant sonic flourish in this commitment-issues lament — at the 3:20 point, Britney trills, “I run awaaaaay,” and her voice warps into an eight-second electro-splutter until it trails off into dying sparks. Hats off to production-writing duo Brian Kierulf and Joshua M. Schwartz, the unsung heroes behind so many peak Brit moments.

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‘Trouble’ (2008)

Britney calling a song “Trouble” is like Springsteen calling a song “Car” or Olivia writing one called “Sad.” Trouble is the oxygen she breathes, and that’s why we love her.

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‘Don’t Go Knockin’ on My Door’ (2000)

This breakup song perks up at the end, when Britney stages a little phone-chat intervention with herself — it’s like a TRL version of William Butler Yeats’ “A Dialogue of Self and Soul.” “OK, so listen, so then he goes, ‘No matter what I do for you, it never seems to be enough.’ Eeeew! I can’t believe he said that!” But Brit tells herself the hard truth. “One minute everything’s fine, and the next minute, you’re freaking out — it’s like you’re never satisfied!” It segues right into her version of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.”

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‘Let Me Be’ (2001)

She takes a stand against her latest worthless guy, warning him she won’t be crawling back. Nice candle metaphor: “You try to breathe me/But you can’t blow me out.”

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‘One Kiss From You’ (2000)

Your basic “Oops!… I Did It Again” teen romance.

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‘Shattered Glass’ (2008)

The cool thing about “Shattered Glass” is how Brit pronounces it “glaaay-yeee-aaas.”

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‘Just Luv Me’ (2016)

Not to be confused with “Just Like Me.”

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‘Just Like Me’ (2016)

Going from “Just Luv Me” to “Just Like Me” on the same album is high concept — a real-time graph of diminished expectations. And Julia Michaels co-wrote them both.

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‘Intimidated’ (2001)

If you wade deep into the soundtrack of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius and get past the opening tracks from Aaron Carter and NSync, you will arrive at “Intimidated.” There’s still time to turn back before you reach Aaron’s “A.C.’s Alien Nation.” You’ve been warned.

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‘Ooh Ooh Baby’ (2007)

Cute but cloying, in a way that doesn’t fit the bleary late-night murk of Blackout.

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‘Trouble for Me’ (2011)

When Brit decides to aim for a Rihanna clone job, she doesn’t go halfway. She’s got some excellent lovergirl patter here, as she says to the trade, “Sweet talk, let’s go, tell me something credible.”

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‘The Hook Up’ (2003)

You have to admire Britney’s commitment to making making her reggae cred happen, but this can’t hang with “Soda Pop.”

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‘Liar’ (2016)

A three-minute splash of bhangra percussion and harmonica breaks.

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‘The Answer’ (2003)

You gotta love how this Puff Daddy production steals the absolute last thing anyone would think worth stealing from “I’m a Slave 4 U,” i.e., the melody. But it could have used more personality, considering that it’s Britney and Puffy, the moment’s twin titans of pop hot-mess-itude.

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‘When Your Eyes Say It’ (2000)

Now this has personality. “When Your Eyes Say It” is all personality — a nifty example of how she can make a little Britney go a long way, relying on her winsome voice to sell this Diane Warren ballad. Love the poetry recital in the middle, when she gushes, “I love all the ways you show me you’ll never leave!”

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Various Artists, ‘Hands — A Song for Orlando’ (2016)

A benefit single after the 2016 shooting at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub, featuring Selena Gomez, Kacey Musgraves, Mary J. Blige, Gwen Stefani, RuPaul, and many others. Britney takes the opening lines. 

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‘You Got It All’ (2000)

The Jets’ 1986 ballad was ubiquitous at the time, a real tear-jerker. “You Got It All” seemed destined to be a permanent pop standard, a song we’d always hear at malls, proms, weddings — but for some reason, it did one of history’s weirdest disappearing acts. Nobody remembers it now. (One reason might be the bungled title: Everybody thought it was “You Got It All Over Him,” which is how the chorus goes.) I cherish this song, but I admit Britney’s version doesn’t exactly help the cause, since she misses half the notes in the melody. Justice for forgotten Eighties slow jams! (And don’t even get me started about Gloria Estefan’s “Anything for You.”)

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‘I’m So Curious’ (1999)

Charming fluff from the debut, written by the mysterious Eric Foster White, who penned half the album. A song like “I’m So Curious” seems easy to dismiss, but if you listen close, you notice how smartly it’s crafted to flatter her strengths.