If you asked anyone from ages 19-33 to name 15 celebrities who had the biggest influence on their development and upbringing, Britney Spears would probably not get the credit she deserves. Some people would definitely include Britney Spears, but a good amount of people would probably forget about her — only to be like “oh definitely Britney Spears” when prompted.
For 20-something guys and girls alike, Britney’s career developed in conjunction with how we began to perceive and understand the world around us. She, perhaps more than any pop-artist out there, took us through her rise to stardom, loss of innocence, total loss of innocence, recovery, emphatic rebound, continued rebound, and eventual leveling out. In a way, Britney was like our first Facebook friend, as we watched her career play out on a newsfeed solely dedicated to her.*
*Is that too much? Feel like that might be too much.
Point is, Britney’s music and persona took us places that we were never taken to before. Those who came after Britney will always be, in a sense, compared to Britney. With that, here’s a ranking of sorts**:
**Obviously this is a bit subjective. Feel free to offer up any tweaks in the ‘mments.
Britney’s ability to forecast (and/or partially incite) future trends is second to none. The feel and lyrics in Circus are the exact embodiment of those aspiring model types that have taken over instagram. In many ways, it’s that same essence.
9. My Prerogative
My Prerogative, originally done by Bobby Brown, is one of the rare instances in which a cover became significantly more popular (and arguably, more well known) than the original.
The song basically laid out her relationship with the media, which, if you recall, was at Bieber-level insanity in the early aughts.
8. (You Drive Me) Crazy
This track and Baby One More Time were the first two Britney Spears songs that I ever heard. I think this was everyone’s experience, and you never forget your first.
More importantly, I remember actually really liking this song. Granted my music taste is about as sophisticated as a guy with thick-rimmed glasses reading Twilight, but liking this song — whilst being staunchly opposed to the Spice Girls and other girly music that was big at the time — seemed pretty huge.
7. Till The World Ends
Femme Fatale is by far my favorite recent Spears album. Not that I actually listened to all the songs, but the radio hits it produced (Till The World Ends, Hold It Against Me, Criminal), felt like the perfect fusion of old and new Britney.
Basically, the musical equivalent of Seth Rogen in Neighbors — you’ve got everything that’s made you love Britney all along, yet it acknowledges the fact that she’s now in a different place. Evolved, yet authentic.
6. Not A Girl, Not Yet A Woman
No commentary here. Just a great one.
5. If You Seek Amy
Out of any song title, this best reflects Britney’s image as constructed by both her people and the media. Barely subliminal, innocent by a technicality — to foreshadow a later inclusion, not that innocent.
4. …Baby One More Time
See #7. Ranked higher because Baby One More Time seemed to emerge as the more popular song. If you had a gun to your head and had to name a song off of Britney’s first album (which my brother and I purchased at a Borders), you’d probably say this song.
This is far and away my favorite Britney Spears song — partly because of that great scene in Spring Breakers, which immortalized it in a way that seemed to be just as much predicated on Britney Spears as it was the actual movie. This (very well done) article argues that sentiment, claiming that the movie was just one giant metaphor for “the corruption and breakdown” of Britney Spears.
Spring Breakers aside, a very solid song. At the time it was a slight change of pace relative to her other more sexualized material.
You know Toxic. Everyone knows Toxic. Teenage boys in 2003 especially know toxic.
1. Oops!…I Did It Again
Oops, arguably, was the tipping point. If the follow up to her first album was a little bit more modest, she may have gone the way of a beloved teen heartthrob actor who fizzles out after her first movie as an adult.
But instead of remaining a fleeting phenomenon, this song enabled Britney to become the phenomenon. One that could probably be summed up in one word, complete with some heavily layered, wink-wink nudge-nudge italics: