Home Music Music Lists

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.”

Toni Anne Barson/WireImage; Dave Hogan/Getty Images; Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

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

Play video

Kevin Mazur/WireImage


‘Mona Lisa’ (2005)

“Mona Lisa” is a deep cut that only the most hardcore fanatics know — from the bonus CD that came with the Britney & Kevin: Chaotic DVD. But it’s one of her toughest, darkest comments on stardom. She co-wrote it with her live band, sounding pissed-off, in a “Lucky” sequel that begins, “This is a story about Mona Lisa.” But this Mona Lisa is a clone who hides behind her smile and plots her rebellion. She dishes the dirt about celebrity: “I’ve got a little story to tell / About Mona Lisa and how she suddenly fell… / Now I am taking over to release her from her spell!” No wonder the label didn’t want to release it. Britney previewed the song on Ryan Seacrest’s L.A. radio show in 2004, dedicating it to “the legends and icons out there.” It might be the most autobiographical thing she’s ever done, with lines like, “Everyone’s watching as she starts to fall.” Britney at her rawest and realest—a taste of her mythical lost album Original Doll.

Play video

Chris Weeks/WireImage


‘Hot as Ice’ (2007)

Britney was born the year Rick James ruled the radio with “Super Freak,” so it’s fitting she nails this tribute, starring as the kind of girl you read about in New Wave magazines. “Hot as Ice” is the most expert Rick James clone job since Cameo did “Word Up,” with Danja doing his nasty I’m-Rick-James-bitch background vocals. But it sounds totally Britney. “This ain’t no foolishness or fuckery,” she declares — spoken like a girl who wants to party all the time. 

Play video



‘Sometimes’ (1999)

The great forgotten Britney hit. “Sometimes” was her her all-important second single, after “…Baby One More Time” put her on the map. Keep in mind, this was the summer of 1999, the all-time peak of one-hit wonders — back then, going from one hit to two was even tougher than the jump from zero to one. “Sometimes” was the hit that gave her a career. And much more than the debut single, “Sometimes” invented her image as the all-American teen queen of TRL Nation. (“I don’t wanna be so shy / Everytime that I’m alone I wonder why”—way too relatable.) She also introduced her trademark video move of rolling her eyes up at the camera. Ariana Grande clearly studied this video like a chess master studying Bobby Fischer. Blink-182 built a career on making fun of it. The video also has an all-time peak for MTV cheese: While Brit feels her feelings, her elfin dancers surround her on the pier in the shape of a heart. 

Play video



‘Criminal’ (2011)

She’s got something to confess, Mama — she’s in love with an evil outlaw who’s got no conscience (“None! None! None! None!”) and no heart. But anyone can hear that Brit is the “Criminal” she’s singing about. This Femme Fatale highlight is a bizarre Ray Davies pastiche, with a Village Green Preservation Society-style flute/guitar playing the melody from the Kinks classic “I’m Not Like Everybody Else.” How does she get away with crazy shit like this? Because she’s not like everybody else.

Play video

Al Powers/Powers Imagery/Invision/AP


‘Alien’ (2013)

The Bowie-Britney connection runs deep. It’s crazy how much these two extraterrestrial pop voyagers have in common — the Blondes Who Fell to Earth. “Alien” is a lonely space-girl ballad where Major Britney floats across the galaxy, looking for a planet where she might finally feel at home, over William Orbit synth bleeps. “I always felt like a stranger in a crowd,” she sings, her sad-robot voice filtered through layers of cosmic dust.