Britney Spears celebrates 20 years in the music recording business today. On the 23rd of October 1998, she released her very first, very iconic single ‘…Baby One More Time’. She changed the whole pop landscape at the time and has released a long string of hit singles ever since. To celebrate her career A Bit of Pop Music created a top 20 of her very best singles, to follow up the list of best album tracks we already shared. As there was a lot of ‘kill your darlings’ going on, I would like to mention the five songs that just missed a spot in the top 20; Work Bitch (2013), ‘My Prerogative’ (2004), ‘Sometimes’, (1999), ‘Boys’ (2001) and ‘Me Against The Music’ (2003) featuring Madonna. And now it is time for the 20 absolute best, which you will find in a playlist when you keep scrolling down!
20. Slumber Party (Glory, 2016)
‘Slumber Party’ was released as the second and last single from Britney’s most recent album Glory. The catchy tune was remade into a duet with R&B star Tinashe and their vocals blend surprisingly well. This single was the ultimate proof that Britney could still sound contemporary without losing identity. A seductive little tune with a sexy video!
19. Till The World Ends (Femme Fatale, 2011)
Britney Spears made another successful comeback in 2011 and managed to sound right on the money for all of the Femme Fatale album. ‘Till The World Ends’ saw her chasing the trends of that moment, but she did so with an incredibly catchy chorus and fabulous production. A bop and a half.
18. Lucky (Oops!…I Did It Again, 2000)
When you are around for 20 years, not every single one of your songs might have aged just as well and ‘Lucky’ is sure one of those songs that is a product of its time and might sound cheesy now. It is still a classic though! The lyrics about a movie star who is unable to find happiness eventhough she has all the fame and success do have another impact too if you know what happened in her personal life in later years.
17. Don’t Let Me Be The Last To Know (Oops!… I Did It Again, 2000)
Remember when Britney went all country on us? Shania Twain co-wrote this little country pop cross-over and if you ask me, it is one of her most underrated songs. This ballad has an undeniably strong chorus and her voice suits the genre so well! Should have been a top 10 hit internationally!
16. Circus (Circus, 2008)
“There is only two types of people in the world, the ones that entertain and the ones that observe.” Damn right, Britney and she definitely belongs in the first category. ‘Circus’ is such an expressive, show stopping pop tune. The chorus is very high energy and hits hard every single time it comes around. TUNE!
15. Born To Make You Happy (…Baby One More Time, 1999)
I might be one of the few people with this opinion, but I always found ‘Born To Make You Happy’ the stronger one over ‘Sometimes’, which became a bigger hit. I wonder what would have happened if they followed up ‘…Baby One More Time’ with ‘Born…’. The chorus is just right, so right! A melody as strong as this, you only write once in a lifetime. Or about a hundred times if you are in Max Martin’s team.
14. If U Seek Amy (Circus, 2008)
Every now and then Britney and her team came up with something they knew would be controversial and they sure succeeded with the release of ‘If You Seek Amy’. The lyrical playfulness is all kinds of brilliant and Britney matches the vibe with her cheeky delivery. And that chorus… that chorus! The catchiest of hooks!
13. Piece Of Me (Blackout, 2007)
Lyrically ‘Piece of Me’ was one of Britney’s most outspoken moments and it came at exactly at the right time. She just suffered a public mental breakdown, but hit back with the sassiest of tunes, putting all the gossip magazines that wrote about her in their place. She did so over a progressive electronic pop production that, as Tim van Erp already pointed out in our panel article, was way ahead of its time! Look at our Britney starting trends!
12. Hold It Against Me (Femme Fatale, 2011)
With ‘Hold It Against Me’ Britney Spears joined the dubstep hype within the pop world and the middle-eight of this track was one of the absolute highlights this whole trend had to offer. Other than that, the track has one of the strongest hooks of her career. In 2011, we could not have asked for a better comeback than this!
11. (You Drive Me) Crazy (Stop Remix) (…Baby One More Time, 1999)
‘Crazy’ was released as the third single of the debut album. She recorded a brand new version of the tune after the album was already out, which was dubbed the ‘stop remix’. The cow bells of the original were pushed to the background for a more punchy late 90s pop production. The hooks remain ever so strong and the middle-eight with the actual ‘stop!’ moment is of course nothing less than iconic.
10. Oops!… I Did It Again (Oops!… I Did It Again, 2000)
‘Oops!… I Did It Again’ might not necessarily be one of her most refreshing moments, it sure as hell is one of her most legendary. Sonically it stayed close to the sound of her debut (which is not surprising as it was released only little over a year later), but it was especially the video (and that red suit!) that became one of her most remembered visuals. This might be one of the most quoted and parodied moments in pop history. That says it all right!?
09. Gimme More (Blackout, 2007)
‘Gimme More’ was easily Britney’s most conflicted comeback. The disastrous MTV VMA performance showed she was nowhere near ready to be there and the music video was a very low effort affair. At the same time, it was a progressive bop with a big fat electronic production by Danja, Keri Hilson, Pharrell Williams and Jim Beanz which graced us with the iconic words ‘It’s Britney Bitch!’. Still a 9/10 bop that started to restore her career before she was ready herself. Imagine if they would have held off releasing to give this track a proper push.
08. Overprotected (Britney, 2001)
With her Britney album, she tried to break free from her innocent image and showed off her growth into an independent young woman. ‘Overprotected’ was her declaration of independence, asking all the right questions after growing up overprotected, in her case by cameras and media attention. This is one of the tunes I totally fell in love with again while making this top 20. In a slightly different arrangement this would be a hit in 2018.
07. Womanizer (Circus, 2008)
‘Womanizer’ marked the return of Britney the music video star. The repetitive but oh so catchy tune had that headline chasing opening shot of her naked in a sauna and a storyline in which Britney fooled a womanizer by seducing him in three different looks as payback. She had her spark back in the video as well as in the song. The ‘womanizer woma-womanizer you’re a womanizer’ part made sure no one will ever use the word again without quoting Britney. Oh, her influence!
06. Break The Ice (Blackout, 2007)
I am fully aware this is an unusual choice so high up in a Britney singles top 20, but I absolutely adore every single thing about this song. The lush production that sounded futuristic at the time, her heavenly high pitched vocals that are made for tracks like this and the build up here are outstanding. In terms of song structure it is not your usual pop song, but it still manages to throw hook after hook in our faces. This certified BOP deserves a lot more recognition!
05. Everytime (In The Zone, 2003)
The legendary miss Britney Spears did not show off her more vulnerable side as often in her songs, but when she does, it is quite heartbreaking. ‘Everytime’ is one of the last ballads she released as a single and it became a huge hit. The completely stripped back song focuses solely on her vocals as she sounds fragile, yet gorgeous. The music video accompanying the track is even more heartbreaking when you know the hell Britney had to go through a couple of years after it was released.
04. I’m A Slave 4 U (Britney, 2001)
‘I’m A Slave 4 U’ will forever be remembered as the track that announced Britney’s sexual awakening. The steamy video, the change in lyrical content, this was a completely new Britney! Well the only thing that did not change is that Britney kept on delivering the bops, this time more influenced by R&B with a flawless production by the Neptunes. This track was most definitely a game changer in Britney’s own career as well as the pop landscape at the time.
03. Stronger (Oops!… I Did It Again, 2000)
‘Stronger’ is an essential track in Britney’s evolution as a pop star and as Zuheir Zaidon mentioned in the fan panel article, it was already sort of an introduction to the Britney era. By using the lyrics ‘my loneliness is killing me no more’ (referring to the famous line in ‘…Baby One More Time’) she broke free from the image she became famous for. Other than that it carries one of the most impactful choruses she has ever had the chance to sing. This comes dangerously close to being the perfect pop song.
02. …Baby One More Time (…Baby One More Time, 1998)
Speaking of the perfect pop song… can you believe this absolutely iconic piece of pop music turns 20 years old today!? Insane! This track completely changed everything we knew about catchy pop tunes at that stage and started a long lasting trend with this new sound. Max Martin and everyone involved should be considered geniuses just for writing this tune. This song defines a whole era of pop music and is the not so guilty pleasure of an entire generation.
01. Toxic (In The Zone, 2003)
Imagine being a pop star, having released ‘…Baby One More Time’ and then being able to top it with something else later in your career. Britney did THAT! Let’s agree that everyone of us reading this (and hopefully agreeing), that from now on when people say that the perfect pop song does not exist, we just play them ‘Toxic’. This song is everything! The composition is impeccable from start to finish, but it is the completely out of the box production by Bloodshy & Avant that made this song unforgettable.