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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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‘That’s Where You Take Me’ (2001)

Give Max Martin credit for squeezing every last drop out of the formula. You can practically hear the label guys begging: “Hey, Max, maybe you could write her one that sounds kinda like ‘I Want It That Way’? Or exactly? Hell, give it the same chorus!”

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‘Toy Soldier’ (2007)

Brit takes the Blackout blueprint into straight-up comedy, leering at a guy who’s “not talking, he’s just walking like them city boys from New York!” He could be the always-wearing-shades rocker the Shangri-Las lusted for in “Give Him a Great Big Kiss” (“he’s good-bad, but he’s not evil”) a few decades down the line. 

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‘Hard to Forget Ya’ (2016)

After 20 years of parallel history, it was high time Brit did a flat-out Spice Girls tribute. Damn good one, too. 

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‘Ooh La La’ (2013)

Brit rocks the Smurfs 2 soundtrack. A hell of a lot better than that Justin Gargamel song about the trolls. Dirtier, too — “Spin me around the way I like” is a surprisingly non-G-rated sentiment.

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‘Hidden Track’ (1999)

A spoken-word thank-you from Brit tucked away at the end of her debut CD. “It means so much to me that you enjoy listening to my songs as much as I love singing them!” Then she gives a preview of the new Backstreet Boys album: “Hit it, guys!” In other words, her debut album ends with an ad — now that’s concept, right? But you can also hear the innate musicality of her voice, even when she’s just reading a script. Perfect for filling empty spaces at the end of a summer-‘99 mixtape. 

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“I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” (2006)

Otis Redding would be proud. Who would’ve guessed Britney could get away with attempting one of history’s most revered soul ballads? Every singer on earth knows you can’t cover Otis, unless you’re Aretha, but Britney kneels before this song with the blind humility of a fan, which is the only way to do it.

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‘Scary’ (2011)

A Japanese bonus track from Femme Fatale. Groovy use of a horror-movie theremin, plus she rhymes “I need some hypnotherapy” with “I wanna take over your body like it’s Freaky Friday.” 

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‘Outta This World’ (2007)

An early test flight for her sci-fi side, with Brit raving “I keep seeing universes about you.” The title is in a great girl-group tradition, saluting one of the Chiffons’ greatest hits, “Out of This World.” 

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‘I Will Be There’ (1999)

The most shameless Natalie Imbruglia rip ever. Like everyone else in 1999, Brit was clearly obsessed with “Torn,” and she gives off such Natalie vibes she might as well be lying naked on the floor.

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Anticipating (2001)

A bubbly flashback to Seventies roller-skate disco, going for the Chic sound with the god Nile Rodgers himself on guitar.

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‘Make Me …,’ feat. G-Eazy (2016)

A slo-mo tale of love in the club, dragged down by the collaborator: an odd choice for a lead single from an album as solid as Glory. G-Eazy raps, “I can tell that you’re a dangerous woman,” making you wonder if Britney got stuck with this terrible guest rap after Ariana turned it down.

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‘Walk On By’ (2000)

The B side to “Stronger,” an exuberantly boy-crazy mash note. “Every time you smile, angels cry?” System of a Down were totally bumping this shit and taking notes in Y2K. 

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‘Can’t Make You Love Me’ (2000)

Britney has her own unique flair for puppy-love bubblegum, which is how she brings so much pizzazz to an otherwise ordinary ditty, chanting, “I’m just a girl with a crush on you!” 

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‘Lace and Leather’ (2008)

It’s weird how many slap-bass solos appear in her songs — makes you wonder how she and Flea never made any blood sugar sex magik together. Dig that mock Ernie Isley guitar break, too. “Lace and Leather” was the go-to song on the Femme Fatale tour when it was time for the “pull up a random male fan for a lap dance” interlude.

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‘Gasoline’ (2011)

When Britney demands you fill up her tank with gasoline, it goes without saying she isn’t driving anywhere: She just wants you to strike a match and watch her go up in flames. It’s awesomely pathological how Pyro Britney reaches into her falsetto to shriek “Set me on fire!”

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‘Get Back’ (2007)

Great title — so when do we get an eight-hour Peter Jackson documentary about the making of Blackout?

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‘Matches,’ Britney Spears and the Backstreet Boys (2016)

How did it take more than two decades for the one duet between Britney and the Backstreet Boys? It was worth the wait. They have the relaxed confidence of exes sneaking back for a sure-thing quickie between divorces, with great lines like “If they dusted me for prints/They’d find you all over me.” “Matches” is where “It’s Britney, bitch!” meets “Backstreet’s back, all right!” 

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‘Swimming in the Stars’ (2016)

Astro Britney finds true love in outer space — one of the surprisingly reliable themes of her later years. “Swimming in the Stars” is a touching love song, looking up at “seas of city lights.” Nice Depeche Mode Speak and Spell-era synth gurgles, too.

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‘What U See (Is What U Get)’ (2000)

Britney insists on expressing her own identity, warning her dude not to try changing her. “Now you think I’m wearing too much makeup? That my dress is too tight?” Speaking of too tight, Max Martin remains hilariously obsessed with getting paid as many times as possible for the exact same track, so this might as well be titled “Oops! I Did ‘Oops! I Did It Again’ Again.”

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‘Tom’s Diner,’ Giorgio Moroder feat. Britney Spears (2015)

Legendary disco pioneer Giorgio Moroder gave her a solo spot on his 2015 album, Deja Vu, with her version of the classic Suzanne Vega tale of a NYC diner. (Fun fact: the same one in Seinfeld.) “Tom’s Diner” has a long story in dance music, when it surprisingly became a fave of Nineties techno and hip-hop remixers; then it became the first track ever turned into an MP3. But Brit makes it her own.

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‘Cinderella’ (2001)

She was outgrowing Cinderella imagery by 2001, but this time Princess Brit walks out on Prince Charming, telling him “I don’t believe in fairy tales.” It could be her prototype of Taylor Swift’s “White Horse.” Also love the regal diction like “I shall break free” and “I won’t return to thee.”

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‘Amnesia’ (2008)

An old-school Phil Spector girl-group tribute with one of her most benign memory-loss plots: When she sees the hot guy in the parking lot, she forgets her name, phone number, even the fact that she’s wearing her boyfriend’s ring. It happens.

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‘Outrageous’ (2003)

“Outrageous” was written and produced by one who shall not be named (rhymes with “bizarre bizelly”), with the singer asking “Aren’t I super-glamorous?” It was slated as a theme for the mega-flop Halle Berry flick Catwoman, but Brit managed to dodge that bullet, proving yet again she’s got nine lives like a kitty cat.

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‘Everybody’ (2007)

Britney sets out to seduce the night over the Eighties synth-groove of the Eurythmics’ New Wave classic “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This).” It might seem like an all-too-obvious sample, especially since the Eurythmics had so many cooler hits: Britney should try “Sexcrime (1984)” or “Who’s That Girl?” But she nails the right vibe of sexual obsession, especially when she whispers, “So intense when your scent’s in my vicinity.”

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‘If I’m Dancing’ (2016)

A gratifyingly weird hip-house stitch up from Glory. Producer Ian Kirkpatrick gives “If I’m Dancing” the same spritz he brought to Dua Lipa’s “Don’t Start Now” and Selena Gomez’s “Bad Liar.” Plus some Prince-style lyrics: “My shop has been all pink and red/But he wants blue and green instead.” 

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‘Inside Out’ (2011)

Britney sits at her mirror, primping so she can look extra seductive when she breaks up with her dude. Except when he knocks on her door, they start making out, just for old times’ sake, then suddenly they’re not broken up anymore. They turn each other inside out, because they know each other inside out. A celebration of ex sex, especially the way she twists that familiar line, “Hit me one more time!”

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‘Mmm Papi’ (2008)

“Sometimes it would take 10 minutes to write a song, like this Spanish twang song called ‘Mmm Papi,’ ” Britney told Rolling Stone at the time. But “Mmm Papi” is proof that banging it out in 10 minutes is sometimes the way to go. The title made people expect her reggaeton move, but it sounds more like her tribute to Smash Mouth — mod Sixties guitar filtered through Nineties neo-lounge production, as Britney does the peppermint twist in her go-go boots.

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‘Better’ (2016)

A bighearted song about learning to trust again, after getting burned — there’s a beautiful moment when she sings, “Show me what’s under your T-shirt/And bare it like it’s your first time/You take it off like you’ve never been hurt.” The faux-tropical production is badly dated, but the song holds up, especially when the music cuts out and she raves, “So good, so good, so damn, so good, so damn, so good, so right, so good!” What she said.

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‘Perfume’ (2013)

Britney teams up with Sia for a strange torch ballad about a love triangle — she anoints her man’s naked body with her own distinctive aroma so that the other chick can smell the Britney on him. Like “Jolene,” it’s a triangle where the real action is between the ladies, with the dude as a mere conduit. What kind of scent was she smearing on this guy? Probably it’s her signature fragrance, Cosmic Radiance. Or maybe Fantasy Twist? Curious: In Control? She’s got a lot of fragrances.

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‘SMS (Bangerz),’ Miley Cyrus feat. Britney Spears (2013)

A true meeting of minds, from Miley’s smash Bangerz. Their Salt-N-Pepa-inspired duet could have used more Britney, but she nails her 30-second cameo, spitting “Catwalk, slick talk, flirting with the big dog.”

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‘Blur’ (2008)

One of those morning-afters when you wake up and the first thing you say is “Turn the lights out/This shit is way too fucking bright.” “Blur” is a hangover scenario that feels all too vivid, especially when she asks, “What’s your name, man?”

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‘Private Show’ (2016)

A controversial song for sure — many Britney fans would rank it at the absolute bottom. “Private Show” might seem like a dippy tune about humping a stripper pole, but it’s so much more: It’s her Black Mirror episode. She thinks she’s sharing an intimate lap-dance moment with her guy, begging him to close the curtains — until she notices there’s an audience eyeballing her. For Britney, that’s real life as she knows it. Her private show is public property. (As she told Entertainment Tonight, “‘Private Show’ is inevitably a sexy song and it promotes feeling sexy and girls feeling alive, and I think that’s fun for girls.”) The fact that the single really was a private show — i.e., nobody bought it, played it on the radio, or even noticed it came out — just adds to the mise en scene.

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‘My Only Wish (This Year)’ (2000)

How is it possible this is her only Christmas song? It’s an outrage, considering that NSync got their own Home for Christmas album, complete with Justin singing “I Never Knew the Meaning of Christmas” (until he met Britney). “My Only Wish (This Year)” was the leadoff track on the Jive sampler Platinum Christmas, which also had the Backstreet Boys, TLC, and the Dave Matthews Band. Britney writes a letter to Santa, asking him to leave a boyfriend under her Christmas tree: “I can’t be alone under the mistletoe/He’s all I want in a big red bow!” Like all men in Britney’s life, Santa disappoints her.

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‘Dear Diary’ (2000)

One of the most divisive songs in her catalog — for obvious reasons, people really hate this one. But they’re just wrong, wrong, wrong. Britney speaks to the lonely teenage girl in all of us, confiding her secrets to her journal because nobody understands her. (“Dear diary — today I saw that boy!”) Totally love the mega-cheese Eighties keyboard goop — something about the intro triggers the sensation of hearing Delilah on the radio in the pizza place at 2 a.m.

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‘Invitation’ (2016)

Like everybody else in 2015, Britney got blown away by Selena Gomez’s Revival, one of the past decade’s most influential pop albums. (You could say it did for the 2010s what Blackout did for the 2000s.)  Selena’s “Hands to Myself” was the best Britney-style pop hit in years, so it makes sense that with “Invitation,” Brit took her own sip of that metaphorical gin and juice. She explores some mild kink, whispering “I know it might sound crazy but I’m-a put you in this blindfold/I just need you to trust me.”

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‘Coupere Électrique’ (2016)

The world needed to know: What does it sound like when Britney’s singing in French? Exactly like Britney!

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‘S&M (Remix),’ Rihanna feat. Britney Spears (2011)

Britney joins Rihanna for a remix duet of the Number One kink trip “S&M.” She spices it up, begging Rihanna to collar her with lines like “I don’t scream mercy/It’s your turn to hurt me.” They teamed up for a memorable live performance at the Billboard Music Awards, with Britney dolled up in handcuffs and leather like a bunny gimp. 

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‘Soda Pop’ (1999)

Britney’s ska era is so underrated. She rubs her dub all over “Soda Pop,” a reminder of how irie huge Sublime and Sugar Ray were in the Nineties. Guest toaster-for-hire Mikey Bassie is the first, and possibly the last, to compare Britney to “the great poets Homer, Agamemnon, or even Zeus.”

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‘Why Should I Be Sad’ (2007)

The most bummed-out moment on Blackout, produced by the Neptunes, with Britney washing a worthless ex-husband out of her hair and scoffing at “the stupid freaking things that you do.” It ends her darkest album on a hopeful note, with Britney resolving “It’s time for me to move along/I’m tired of singing sad songs.”

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‘Overprotected’ (2001)

“I believe in taking chances”? You don’t say, Britney. In “Overprotected,” she’s a princess sick of being so darn sheltered — she needs to break free, be part of that world. The celebrity fatigue seems real, despite Max Martin’s same-old track. Best hook: the weird sample of Seventies glitter rockers Sweet yelling, “Action!”

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‘Clumsy’ (2016)

“Clumsy” is one of those Britney songs that feels accidentally autobiographical, even when it’s disguised as a mindless party bop. The tension builds until Britney gulps “Ooops!” and a wall of in-the-red synth fuzz slams down — the noise a needy party girl hears in her head when she suddenly realizes she’s felt too much, asked for too much, been too much. But she jumps forward into the beat, dancing one step ahead of that noise with all her too-muchness intact, chasing those handclaps to the next party. Ooops, she did it again.

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‘The Beat Goes On’ (1999)

Britney’s first recorded Cher tribute. Her debut album ends with the Sonny and Cher classic — and she turns it into a mission statement, boldly inserting herself (and her teen-girl audience) into the long tradition of pop music. Like the song says, “History has turned the page.” Brit started out as a little kid belting “If I Could Turn Back Time” at talent shows, so her Cher fandom comes full circle here. [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uc2UywvKyp]  La-di-da-di-di. La-di-da-di-da. The beat goes on.”

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‘Phonography’ (2008)

“Everybody’s got some freaky tendencies!” Ah, yes. Britney gets into the unbelievably hot and heavy world of phone sex, and since it’s from 2008, the tech jargon is a bit dated. But that’s part of the charm, especially when she moans, “I like my Bluetooth/Buttons coming loose/I need my hands free!” Britney and her Mr. Telephone Man stay up all night with their Sidekicks, talking sexy about ringtones and star 69. Bonus points for not adding a MySpace subplot.

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‘Bombastic Love’ (2001)

Sure, but it’s good formula. “Bombastic Love” is Britney kicking and screaming to fight off adulthood, celebrating teen lust as rebellion against the uptight world. Max Martin cranks up the hyperbolic beats to meet her feral yowls, until it lives up to the title.

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‘(I’ve Just Begun) Having My Fun’ (2003)

“I’ve Just Begun (Having My Fun)” came before her marriage, but even at the time, it gave “just-divorced mama out for blood” energy. A post-breakup Britney hits the town, ready to break hearts and raise some hell. Prudes got their hackles up about this hit — so what else is new? The synth-funk buzz evokes the Gap Band in their “You Dropped a Bomb on Me” heyday.

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‘Lonely’ (2001)

One of the first songs where Young Britney learns to talk tough to the menfolk. “What you think, I’m just another chick? Mess with Brit, boy, you must have tripped!” Last July, her boyfriend Sam Asghari posted an Instagram video of her bopping out to “Lonely” in the car, as she tells him, “This is a song I wrote that I was proud of.” He replies, “I love this song,” because he’s no fool.