Britney Spears is 40 and free! In honor of the singer’s first birthday as a free woman in 13 years, we’re ranking the top ten songs of the icon’s lengthy reign as the Princess of Pop.
Believe us, narrowing down Brit’s catalog of bangers, bops and ballads to just 10 tracks was no easy task. Between nine albums, nearly 50 singles and countless fan favorite deep cuts, the pop star has given the Britney Army more than two decades of hits and hidden gems to choose from across multiple eras.
But no matter which song is your personal number one, there are two things every Britney fan can agree on: she will always be the people’s princess and we’re all celebrating her freedom.
Read on for Consequence‘s full ranking of Brit’s ten best songs — from “Overprotected” and “Lucky” to “Toxic” and “Gimme More,” and beyond.
10. “Mood Ring”
Justice for Glory! Originally included as a bonus cut on the Japanese edition of Spears 2016 studio set, “Mood Ring” wasn’t officially released on this side of the Pacific until almost four years later. And while some fans wondered at the time whether the release of the atmospheric mid-tempo jam release was merely a cash grab by Brit’s conservator, now that she’s free from her legal shackles, we can stream the fan-fave track to our hearts’ content.
There’s the radio edit. There’s the Darkchild remix. But in every variation, “Overprotected” remains an underrated gem in Britney’s discography. Building on the themes of autonomy and self-empowerment that had been established on fellow Britney-era singles like “I’m a Slave 4 U” and “Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman,” and would become so central to her personal narrative in later years, this 2001 banger feels eerily prescient knowing what was to come.
8. “Piece of Me”
Following her string of very public struggles courtesy of the ravenous tabloid culture of the mid-2000s, Britney took back her narrative with this defiant slice of electro-pop off 2007’s Blackout. Sure, she left the biographical lyrics and production up to Bloodshy & Avant and Klas Åhlund, but in the Swedish experts’ more-than-capable hands, she recaptured the slinky, magnetic energy of previous collaborations like “Toxic” and “Do Somethin'” while reminding her doubters that she was — and would always be — “Ms. American Dream since [she] was 17.”
When it was released as the third single off 2000’s Oops!… I Did It Again, “Stronger” was a marked departure for Britney. Long gone was the object of puppy love infatuation from her debut single, kicked to the curb in favor of the pop star standing proud on her own two feet. Her loneliness certainly wasn’t killing her anymore, but that iconic choreography in the video showing everything Britney was capable of with just a chair as a dance partner certainly left every fan weak in the knees at the demonstration of her talent.
On its face, this critically acclaimed single off the singer’s 2000 sophomore album may have been a story about a girl named Lucky, but it would turn out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts about a pop star named Britney. At just 17, the starlet spelled out a heartbreaking tale about the crushing loneliness found in having one of the most recognizable faces — and voices — on the planet. She may appear to be the luckiest girl in the world, but fame would prove to be a gilded cage for such a lovely, Hollywood girl.
5. “I’m a Slave 4 U”
“I’m a Slave 4 U” was Britney breaking free. Ready to show the world she was all grown up at 18, the pop sensation put a pair of lacy pink panties on over her jeans to whirl her way around the icy hot, Middle Eastern-inspired beat crafted by Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo of The Neptunes. “All you people look at me like I’m a little girl/ Well did you ever think it’d be OK for me to step into this world?” she croons on the opening, declaring her independence and proving that she wasn’t just tiptoeing her way into the club, she was already dominating it.
4. “…Baby One More Time”
The song that started it all. With the twist of a shirttail and a single cooed, “Oh baby, baby,” Britney became an overnight sensation, singlehandedly ushering in the teen pop movement of the late ’90s and rewriting the playbook for teen pop stardom. Twenty-three years on, “…Baby One More Time” is still as infectious as ever. In case you need a sign of its enduring legacy, just hit that play button one more time and try not to sing along to every word.
There’s no denying it: “Toxic” is a modern masterpiece. With help from Bloodshy & Avant, Britney sent her voice to new heights on the skittering smash off 2003’s Into the Zone, notching her fourth Top Ten hit and earning her first (and so far only) Grammy of her career in the process. “I’m addicted to you/ Don’t you know that you’re toxic?/ And I love what you do/ Don’t you know that you’re toxic?” she asks again and again on the contagious chorus, but if anything, the listener is the one who ends up hopelessly addicted to Brit’s poison paradise by song’s end.
2. “Gimme More”
“It’s Britney, bitch.” With a simple declaration, the pop star welcomed fans into a new, darker chapter of her musical journey. Kicking off her Blackout era, “Gimme More” is a throbbing pop fantasia that operates as both an undeniable club banger and bizarre commentary on the never-satiated culture of paparazzi, tabloids, chaos, and danger that surrounded Spears at the time. VMAs performance be damned, the track set Britney on a sonic adventure that would result in arguably the best and most fascinating album of her career.
1. “Oops!…I Did It Again”
Not that innocent! If “…Baby One More Time” was her cotillion moment, “Oops!…I Did It Again” was Britney’s coronation. By the time she sauntered onto Mars to usher in her sophomore album in that red latex catsuit, she had already become the center of the teen pop universe. The hit remains Brit at the height of her powers, fully aware and unafraid to wield them all over again in the creation of pop music history. She may have been playing with a boy’s heart, but her fans knew the truth: Britney could never get lost in the game when she was the one making the rules.