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Billboard Picks Britney's Top 40 Best Songs

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Since catapulting to the forefront of pop culture when she was just a teen in the late ’90s, Britney Spears has earned five No. 1s and 13 top 10s on the Billboard Hot 100 – not to mention selling 34 million albums in the U.S., per MRC Data.

But Britney isn’t just one of the biggest artists of the 20th century. She’s also one of the most defining cultural touchstones of our time, having symbolized everything from suburban schoolgirl innocence to bold ***ual confidence to resilience and hard-fought freedom.

In honor of Britney Spears’ 40th birthday (Dec. 2), Billboard revisited her extensive catalog of pop classics and came up with our staff picks for Britney Spears’ 40 best songs.

40. "Break the Ice" (2007)

Blackout was so chilly that it hosted not one but two songs with “ice” in the title. The better of the two, “Break the Ice,” pairs frosty synths and otherworldly backup vocals with an unrelenting, steamy vocal performance from Spears. By the time she’s panting on the chorus, it’s clear that the ice in question will have melted into a puddle before anyone gets around to breaking it

39. "Don't Go Knockin' On My Door" (2000)

One of the best non-singles from Spears’ TRL years, this hit-the-road-Jack anthem off her second album benefits from a resolute Britney vocal, some cleverly placed chorus pauses, and one of her most muscular early productions — courtesy of Max Martin’s then-right-hand-man Rami Yacoub and regular collaborator Jake Schulze. Britney’s ex might not be knocking, but the beat certainly is.

38. "Heaven on Earth" (2007)

Four handclaps, an arpeggiated synth and a pulsing 4/4 beat, and we’re instantly off into the clouds. “Heaven on Earth” sees Britney entranced by the hypnotic pull of the dancefloor, embracing the ecstasy with such abandon that she’s both sighing and raving about it at once by the time she gets to the pre-chorus. “Fell in love with you and everything that you are/ Nothing I can do I’m really crazy about you.” Disco, presumably.

37. "Amnesia" (2008)

Opening with a vaguely ominous mechanical thump, “Amnesia” splits the difference between mid-’00s dance-rock and Disney-style teen-pop. Appearing as a bonus track on the U.K. and Japanese versions of Circus, “Amnesia” is a delirious daydream with just the right amount of schmaltz (“Damsel in distress”) and punch, such as when Spears dismisses her fiancé as just someone who “bought me this rock.”

36. "Get Naked (I Got A Plan)" (2007)

Producers Danja (featured on vocals) and Jim Beanz bring the willfully weird to this bloopy Blackout banger, which follows rather closely in the footsteps of Timbaland’s work on Future***/LoveSounds; Britney, however, negotiates a midway point between sing-song and come-on with her vocals, making sure it’s abundantly clear which former Mickey Mouse Club member is calling the shots on this one.

35. "Scream & Shout" with will.i.am

This is will.i.am at his intergalactic best, turning Britney into a British Barbarella for this outer-space jam. “When you hear this in the club, you’re gonna turn this sh-t up,” Spears promises – and she’s right. The minimalist banger even revisits one of Britney’s most iconic moments, borrowing “Britney, *****” from “Gimme More” for the chorus.

34. "Make Me..." feat. G-Eazy

Come for the hallmarks of mid-’10s radio (G-Eazy, that weird yelp throughout), stay for one of Britney’s most vocally nuanced performances. With her voice oozing longing, the gentle verses build to an explosive euphoria on the chorus, at which point words fail and Spears demonstrates just how much meaning you can pack into a simple ooooooh when you’re a tried-and-true pop icon.

33. "Anticipating" (2001)

Britney Spears had always been an avowed Janet Jackson disciple, and when Jackson scored one of the biggest hits of 2001 with the Change-sampling “All For You,” Spears saw fit to sneak her own post-disco jam for the roller rink onto the Britney album that same year. Spears would sink far deeper into the depths of the dancefloor in later years, but the innocent “Anticipating” is one of the fluffiest and most delectably sky-high jams of her career, climaxing in a rapturously double-tracked bridge: “You gotta really let me know if you want me/ You gotta turn me on and make me feel seeexy.”

32. "Radar" (2007)

The first 15 seconds are nothing but distorted synthesizer, the sound of a pop song focusing itself before hunkering down on disco, R&B, electronica and Spears’ no-holds-barred come-ons. A song like “Radar” helps explain why Blackout is regarded as an indispensable piece of Spears’ discography, a testament to her willingness to experiment with her sound and push her image forward; there are plenty of risks beyond the single’s opening, and they all go down smoothly. 

31. ''3''

At the height of her second imperial pop phase, Britney Spears debuted atop the Hot 100 with “3,” the dreaded Obligatory New Track from her second official hits compilation. But “3” didn’t feel perfunctory: The blazing Max Martin and Shellback production made sure Spears was armed for the turbo-pop turn of the ’10s, which she matched with one of the most deliciously naughty lyrics of her career, even making history’s most unsavory Peter, Paul & Mary reference. Best part: When the beat drops on the bridge and Spears sweetly offers to turn the threesome into “just… you and me” — before her grin returns, and she adds, “or three, or four… on the floor.

30. "Seal It With A Kiss" (2011)

Britney doesn’t want to say goodbye for the summer on this Femme Fatale deep cut, one of the many album tracks on this set every bit as strong as the singles. Rather, she hopes to taste the “forbidden fruit” of an illicit affair, with slithering electro-pop synths croaking their support underneath her, and a late-arriving dubstep drop all but confirming the dirty deed. And on the chorus, she seals the deal with a wordless ooh-ooh-oooo-ooooo, implying an ecstasy that Brian Hyland likely never dared to imagine. 

29. "Perfume" (2013)

The collaboration between Spears and co-writer Sia for the Britney Jean album didn’t lead to much chart success, but it did result in a couple of the most resonant songs of Spears’ 2010s. “Perfume” in particular was a stunner, a song in which Britney frets over a possible Other Woman crowding her relationship — inverting the ***iness of her chart-topper from a half-decade earlier by moaning, “I want to believe it’s just you and me/ Sometimes it feels like there’s three.” Still, her plan to fight back — by “mark[ing her] territory” with her scent — gives the song dimension beyond the usual love-triangle themes, Brit dripping with equal parts desperation and desperation as she declares, “I hope she smells my perfume.”

28. "I Wanna Go" (2011)

A thumping bassline, staccato vocals and whistling a’plenty, “I Wanna Go” could go off the rails in lesser hands, but co-producers Max Martin and Shellback keep this slice of exultant Femme Fatale Hi-NRG going at 100 mph without ever veering off the tracks; for her part, Spears sounds like she’s having the time of her life, particularly when teasing out the E’s to ridiculous lengths (“shame on meee / to neeeeed releeeease“) on the pre-chorus. 

27. "Kill the Lights" (2008)

With 808s crisper than a biting autumn wind, Circus album track “Kill the Lights” boasts one of Britney’s most pissed-off vocals, and the world is better for it: “You don’t like me / I don’t like you / It don’t matter” she snarls. Mr. Photographer better watch his back, because the relish she puts into these words (“I keeeeel the lights!”) makes it seem like she’d like to snuff out more than a bulb.

26. "Trip to Your Heart" (2011)

Britney Spears spends many of her best pop songs sounding like she’s in a trance, so it makes sense that she would score a knockout actually doing a trance-pop song. Femme Fatale gem “Trip to Your Heart” is captivating from the first flashes of its strobe-light synths, and Britney just travels higher from there — “Your touch sends me off the ground,” she coos at the end of the second verse, with the last word looping as she shoots off into the stars. You can practically hear ’em twinkling on the chorus.

25. "If U Seek Amy" (2009)

Britney found a sneaky way to say “f–k me” on MTV and turned it into a top 20 Hot 100 hit to boot. Fitting for the Circus album, the “la-la-la’s” and “ha-ha’s” give the production a carnival vibe, as the song searches high and low for the title bad girl. Spears thumbs her nose at radio censors and her critics with the “love me, hate me, say what you want about me” chorus, but she knows what all of the boys and all of the girls are begging for.

24. "I'm Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman" (2001)


With “I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman,” a young Spears chronicled the transitional growing pains — the Crossroads, if you will — that every person, regardless of gender, experiences at some point in their life. The relatable, glittering track explores how the pop star — much like any other twentysomething — has come to the realization that “I used to think / I had the answers to everything.” It remains such a staple that even Billie Eilish’s 2021 song “Getting Older” recalls a similar sentiment of growing up in front of the entire world — only to realize it’s all the same no matter who you are.

23. "Everytime" (2003)

Despite all the surging hits Spears has under her belt, she’s often at her best on her most vulnerable songs — particularly the twinkling, piano-led “Everytime.” Off Spears’ third album In The Zone, “Everytime” is a stunningly bare ballad that showcases the singer’s soft-spoken yet enthralling vocal chops. And when someone as strong as Spears so convincingly pleads “My weakness caused you pain, and this song’s my sorry,” it’s impossible for hearts not to break right alongside hers.

22. "Breathe on Me (Jacques Lu Cont Thin White Duke Remix)"

The original “Breathe on Me” (from 2003’s In the Zone) was plenty blissed-out to begin with: an airy, pulsing and highly breathy midtempo coo. But in the hands of Jacques Lu Cont (a.k.a. Stuart Price, best known to pop heads as Madonna’s principal Confessions on a Dance Floor steward), the song goes into full Giorgio Moroder overdrive, an absolute monster of percolating synths, propulsive beats and a Britney vocal so rapturous she sounds practically possessed. She feels love, you can be damn sure of that much.

21. "Sometimes" (1998)

Like much of her blockbuster debut album, “Sometimes” is pure schmaltz — inarguably a relic of the late ’90s bubblegum explosion masterminded from the studios of Sweden. But unlike, say, “E-Mail My Heart,” there’s a yearning honesty to Spears’ vocals on this lush, saccharine ballad. The easy-going, shuffling beat does a lot of the heavy lifting, too, but the sweet simplicity in her delivery – she was just 17 upon its release — makes “Sometimes” a Britney ballad for all times

20. "Boys (Co-Ed Remix)" feat. Pharrell (2002)

By third album Britney, the Princess of Pop had dropped the teen-pop chastity routine and embraced her ***ual confidence. “Boys” was a lyrical turning point, but the Neptunes saved the best version for the soundtrack to Austin Powers In Goldmember (a testament to the cultural cache of anything Austin Powers at the turn of the millennium). While the album version is Janet lite, the “Co-Ed Remix” – with its impish, funky guitar and an extra helping of Britney cooing “get nasty” – is a college course in dirty compared to the album version’s AP class.

19. "Unusual You" (2008)

This pulsing deep cut from Circus has Spears stunned by a new romantic partner who is (gasp!) reliable and trustworthy. “Didn’t anyone tell you you’re supposed to break my heart?” she asks in the chorus. And just like that one-in-a-million lover, the song itself makes unexpected choices too, including one of Spears’ most hauntingly pretty vocal deliveries and an unpredictable production that alternates between ballad and bop.

18. "Circus" (2008)

While “Piece Of Me” on 2007’s Blackout allowed Spears to address the unyielding, paparazzi-led cultural fascination of her physical and emotional well-being, “Circus,” from the 2008 follow-up of the same name, tackled the same topic with a cheekier perspective, with Spears owning her role as a natural performer while also copping to being “ready to break” when the spotlight fixes on her. The nuance is wrapped in an electro-pop package that requires the words to tumble out of Spears’ mouth on the chorus, the musical equivalent of an onstage adrenaline rush.

17. "How I Roll" (2011)

Perhaps the busiest production of Britney Spears’ career, a veritable symphony of clicks, buzzes, bubbles and squelches, helmed by a dream-team of Swedish soundsmiths. Rube Goldbergian soundscape aside, “How I Roll” really pops because of the lyrics, co-penned by Katy Perry collaborator Bonnie McKee with the same earthy jubilation she brought to Teenage Dream, and delivered by Britney with an appropriately unimpressed cool. “I’ve got nine lives like a kitty cat,” she boasts on the hook; her ability to adapt to songs as weird and wonderful as this is of the biggest reasons why.

16. "Overprotected" (2001)

The second Britney single takes on a whole new meaning after learning Spears’ true feelings about the overbearing conservatorship that controlled her personal and professional life for 13 years. But back in 2001, she was a 19-year-old demanding to be taken seriously as a grown-up pop star – to learn from her mistakes and grow. “Say hello to the girl that I am,” the song starts – the ultimate reintroduction.

15. "Do You Wanna Come Over?" (2016)

The aural equivalent of a “u up” text you were actually hoping to receive, “Do You Wanna Come Over?” promises “whatever you want, whatever you need,” and this Glory highlight (not even a proper single!) delivers exactly that. A brisk acoustic guitar strums over a throbbing bed of synths as Britney playfully sets the terms for a late-night rendezvous. It culminates in a weird, whiny shout-along chorus that is strangely irresistible, proving that when Britney’s in her lane, she’s great – but when she steps out of her comfort zone, she’s better.

14. "Womanizer" (2008)

Spears went back to basics – earworm chorus, club-ready beat, “Toxic” version 2.0 music video – with this 2008 Circus single and scored her first Hot 100 No. 1 since her breakthrough hit “…Baby One More Time.” The comeback track is mostly a fun romp, though there is a nod to her public struggles in the sassy line “You say I’m crazy? I got your crazy.” Britney was back and suffering no fools.

13. "Hold It Against Me" (2011)

If Spears spent the last few years of the 2000s regaining her professional footing after personal struggles, by 2011 she was fully back as a pop A-lister. “Hold It Against Me” — the first single from that year’s Femme Fatale — declared as such. The song is an efficient showcase of star power, never overreaching beyond its combination of pulsating percussion and heavy synths (a nod to the turbo-pop era in which it was born) or Spears’ seductive questions, highlighted by the chorus line, “If I said I want your body now, would you hold it against me?”

12. "Me Against the Music" feat. Madonna

“Me Against The Music” is a song about checking your problems at the club door and losing yourself on the dancefloor; who better to deliver that message than the duo of Britney Spears and Madonna? With a slinky bit of funk-pop production from Penelope Magnet and Tricky Stewart, the pop icons bounce off each other beautifully, trading lines on the verses and letting their vocal tones hover underneath each other. The promotion of “Me Against The Music” was tethered to memories of the Brit-Madge lip-lock at the 2003 VMAs, but years later, its rhythmic hooks still beguile. 

11. "Oops! ... I Did It Again" (2000)


As the lead single to her second album, “Oops! … I Did It Again” had one mission: continue the upward trajectory that the teen superstar had started with debut project …Baby One More Time and its multiple hit singles. With Max Martin and Rami Yacoub constructing more bubblegum brilliance and Spears delivering a particularly playful performance, “Oops! … I Did It Again” not only kept her hot streak going — Spears’ sophomore album of the same name debuted with 1.39 million copies sold in its debut week — but made her pop charm seem effortless. 

10. "Work *****" (2013)

This ultimate inspo track declares that luxury cars and hot bodies don’t grow on trees – you have to work for them… b-tch. “Work” is Britney at her dance-pop best, with her purring vocals making the most of the driving Sebastian Ingrosso, Otto Knows and will.i.am beat. Her lyrics are mostly spoken here, and her faux-British accent (especially highlighted on the repeated word “guvanah”) makes it feel like you’re taking an especially strict U.K. Peloton class. Most of all, this song works because of just how – we’ll borrow a word from Britney’s not-native England – cheeky it is. Even if Brit keeps a straight face in the music video, it’s impossible for listeners not to smile.

9. "Till the World Ends" (2011)

If Britney’s Instagram clips have proven anything, it’s that she meant what she said on her 2011 futuristic electro-pop hit “‘Till The World Ends.” And since the world did not, in fact, end on Dec. 21, 2012 as the music video predicted, Spears has continued to keep on dancing. Supported by sinewy synths and percussive production, there’s nothing more unifying than when this explosive song comes on at the bar, club or perhaps even in an underground sewer system — proving to everyone on the dancefloor, wherever it may be, that they can surely last one more round.

8. "Lucky" (2000)

Hailing from second album Oops! … I Did It Again, which came out eight years before her conservatorship began, Spears’ “Lucky” feels like an eerie foreshadowing of events to come. It tells the story of a girl who seems to have it all — fortune, fame, awards and a “perfect smile” — but is still desperately unhappy. Sure, Spears explored themes like loneliness and the price of fame in other songs but never as poignantly and vulnerably as in the song’s third-person narration. Our earliest peak behind the curtain of life as an ultra-famous pop star, “Lucky” is a revealing portrait of Spears in her early years, complete with Max Martin’s saddest hook to date: “if there’s nothing missing in my life / why do these tears come at night?” 

7. "(You Drive Me) Crazy (The Stop! Remix)"

As Britney’s third single (and the second track on her debut album), “(You Drive Me) Crazy” made it clear that “…Baby” was just the opening salvo — this Louisiana teen was going into the new millennium with an imposing Swedish pop arsenal behind her and taking no prisoners. While Britney keeps it cool on the verses, letting her vocal fry and melisma suggest the extent of her infatuation, she lets it all out on the roaring chorus, where Spears and Max Martin summon the intensity of a Bon Jovi anthem and fine tune it for teen-catering clubs (which was, in fact, the setting of the “Stop! Remix” video, a tie-in to a Melissa Joan Hart/Adrian Grenier romcom). If it’s not the only song in existence where a clanging cowbell is used to evoke the pounding rush of teenage hormones, well, then it’s certainly the best.

6. "Piece of Me" (2007)

Celebrity gossip and paparazzi culture had gotten so pervasive and intrusive by the mid-’00s that everyone from Lindsay Lohan to Fall Out Boy were responding to it in song and video. But the Queen of the TMZ pop era — for better and much, much worse — was of course Ms. Britney Spears, and the pounding “Piece of Me” was her definitive statement of the matter. What really stands out about the song years later is how resigned Spears sounds throughout, from the classic opening line (“I’m Miss American Dream since I was 17”) to the chorus (“You want a piece of me,” delivered less as challenge than statement of fact). She knows she can fight it if she wants, but she’s ultimately powerless to stop it. Funky, but freaky.

5. "Stronger" (2000)

Back in 2000, Brit told the world she’s stronger than some might think with the pounding pop anthem “Stronger” off her second album Oops!… I Did It Again. Punchy lines like “I’m not your property as from today” and “you might think that I can’t take it, but you’re wrong” embrace a weightier meaning after Spears was freed from her conservatorship. For a superstar who swore to fans from the start she’s not one to mess with, “Stronger” stands the test of time as a rattling reminder of what one can accomplish with even a sprinkle of Spears’ determination. 

4. "I'm a Slave 4 U" (2001)

The 2001 MTV Video Music Awards were the ideal introduction for this slinky, seductive single; just like the decision to wrap a yellow Burmese python around Spears’ shoulders for that iconic performance, this was one of the pop star’s riskiest moves yet. It more than paid off: With its spare, syncopated production, the Neptunes-helmed song is one of the most critically acclaimed and fan-beloved tracks she’s ever put out — even if it somehow only peaked at No. 27 on the Hot 100. In a subsequent single from 2001’s Britney, the 19-year-old sings “I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman,” but “Slave” proved that she was officially a grown-and-**** superstar.

3. "Gimme More" (2007)

It begins with “It’s Britney, *****”; it ends with producer Danja essentially boasting about the song that just played. In between, “Gimme More” more than justifies the braggadocio, a kinetic re-positioning of Spears’ sound that, divorced from the context of her ongoing personal struggles at the time, soars as a futuristic banger today. Within the chaos outside her music, Spears found a mode that played to her strengths: elastic electro-pop with some sonic risks (“Gimme, gimme,” then a pitch-shifted “more!”) and the swagger of an adult artist fully shedding her kid-friendly aesthetic, thanks in part to one skillfully deployed B-word.

2. "... Baby One More Time" (1998)


On the cusp of the new millennium, Britney Spears’ debut single “…Baby One More Time” perfected the teen pop popularized by *NSYNC and Backstreet Boys and proved that a girl from rural Louisiana could exude as much star power in one music video as every boy-bander combined. It’s the song that launched a superstar (and a thousand Halloween costumes). Etched into our collective cultural memory, what could be more Y2K Pop Culture than Spears in her schoolgirl outfit, tied above the navel, with knee high socks and pigtails? It epitomizes the American high school experience: a nostalgic, brief period of life when the biggest worries were getting your crush to like you back and trying to prove you’re an adult (though it’s obvious to everyone else that you aren’t). Though Spears was just a teenager herself when the song was released, her ****-sweet growl and unmistakable charisma made her an instant force to be reckoned with.

1. "Toxic" (2003)

“I need a hit — baby, give me it.” Hard to remember now, but at the time, Britney sorta did: 2001’s Britney album sold well, but not as well as her first two. Most of its singles stiffed on radio, and her heavily publicized breakup with Justin Timberlake saw her pop star ex in comfortable control of the narrative via his smash “Cry Me a River” song and video. The TRL era Britney had reigned over was fading in relevance, and the first single off 2003’s In the Zone — the much-hyped Madonna collab “Me Against the Music” — was greeted coldly, with only a fraction of the interest paid to her and Madge’s proto-viral kiss at the ’03 VMAs. Spears needed a testament to her pop supremacy to silence the doubters. Luckily, she had “Toxic.”

The first thing you notice are the strings: sweeping, screeching, dizzying little buggers that warn you to buckle up on the opening measure, and only grow more hypnotic as the song advances. Then, maybe the guitars: violently thwacked acoustics on the verse that mix with coolly plucked, reverb-soaked electrics on the chorus. And then, of course, Britney herself, sounding more limber than ever as she twists around the song’s many hooks — practically chasing after them in spots — and finally dominates them on the song’s five-star chorus, rumbling, “I’m ADDICTED to you / don’t you know that you’re toxic?”

“Toxic” marries a Bollywood sense of drama with a James Bond sense of cool — and in the music video, she’s the 007 of this spy movie fever dream. The song is ostensibly about Britney falling under a dangerous guy’s spell, but she never sounds less than in total control — or, for that matter, like she’s the less-deadly of the two. The single peaked at No. 9 on the Hot 100, but it was the song that ensured Britney’s adult pop immortality: like all the true greats, she would be able to shape-shift, evolve and make a daring escape whenever needed. “I think I’m ready now,” she offers in closing. We would never doubt again. 



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Don't agree with the position of several songs, I still can't understand people's obsession with How I Roll, and Seal It With a Kiss was a surprise too.

Some inaccurate dates, and Everytime's entry stating In the Zone was her third album :icant2_britney_nope_smh_head_shake_disappointed_everytime: also why choosing that awful remix instead of the original Breathe on Me? But in general it was an ok list. :mhm_britney_nodding_yes_mhmm:

They obviously favored songs like Stronger, Lucky and Piece of Me because of the whole conservatorship thing, but at least they gave Work ***** and Do You Wanna Come Over? the appreciation they deserve 

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22 minutes ago, femmepop said:

Where's "Heaven On Earth"? :gerlwat_sunglasses_cigarette_looking_what_blink:

this list was made by/for the locals but that's okay... we appreciate you stopping by! 


It’s on there lol

Seal it with a Kiss surprises me, it’s such a basic filler song. Not even in my top 10 on that album.

TTYH and HIR as well aren’t great to me- genuinely think How I Roll’s writer must be writing these lists as it’s always on there! How are these 3 here and TOMH isn’t?

Anyway, I love reading these lists even if I don’t agree.

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obviously there's robbed stuff and all, but tbh I'm happy to see Do You Wanna Come Over appreciation. I'm surprised they never made that one a single, it was such single material to me. I think the things with stuff like How I Roll which I do like but I get why some wouldnt for it being one of her least personal albums is that there's definitively some production in that album which inspired PC music in being decently experimental.  Also, Anticipating is an underrated bop, so I'm happy to see it on the list at all.

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2 minutes ago, Isla said:

I had a bad feeling How I Roll would be here.... why are critics so obsessed with this song?

Bit odd they chose a remix of Breathe On Me instead of the original though.

It’s genuinely an incredible song. I actually think it’s one of the best songs on femme fatale 

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