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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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‘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.