Spoiler alert: Britney Jean isn’t number one.
Britney Spears is one of the most influential, beloved and successful pop stars of all time, and while many casual fans see her as a singles-first artist, loyal followers of the Church of Godney know that her studio albums are pure pop perfection.
While there’s a general consensus among Britney fans that a holy trinity exists – that’s In The Zone, Blackout and Glory for those with correct opinions – the album that deserves the number one spot remains open to fiery debate.
We decided to rank all nine of her studio albums. It’s a difficult job, but someone’s got to do it.
9. Britney Jean
Standout track: Work Bitch
We don’t have much to say about this one, but it did give us Work Bitch, so that’s something.
8. Femme Fatale
Standout tracks: Till The World Ends, I Wanna Go, Inside Out
In theory, Femme Fatale gave the world everything they want from a Britney album: Non-stop pop bangers from the likes of Max Martin and Shellback with a couple of mid-tempos thrown in for good measure. The era surrounding it even gave us collaborations with Kesha, Nicki Minaj and Rihanna. But something was missing: That classic Britney magic. One of the greatest things about being part of the B Army is that, while many casual listeners only experience the pounding highs of her club-ready singles, a deeper dive into Britney’s albums reveals a selection of surprisingly personal tracks that offer an insight into the life of one of the world’s biggest superstars. There’s just none of that here. It’s also hard to deny that the album’s EDM-heavy sound is very of its time, no matter how many gays still love grinding away to Hold It Against Me in the club.
7. …Baby One More Time
Standout tracks: …Baby One More Time, Born To Make You Happy, I Will Be There
The album that launched a starry-eyed girl next door into almost instant worldwide success, …Baby One More Time will always have a place in history for its undeniable impact on pop culture. While its bubblegum sound may not hold up so well 20 years later, and the album’s second half leaves little impact on the listener, it’s impossible not to feel nostalgia when the summery strings of Sometimes or the melancholy beats of Born To Make You Happy grace your eardrums. Not to mention its title track is regularly regarded as one of the greatest pop songs of all time, and rightfully so.
6. Oops!… I Did It Again
Standout tracks: Oops!… I Did It Again, Stronger, Don’t Let Me Be The Last To Know
After the incredible achievements of …Baby One More Time, it would’ve been easy for Britney to fall from grace as fast as she rose, but she managed to succeed where most pop stars fail by having a sophomore album that was almost as big as her debut, and with singles that are arguably even more memorable. Title track Oops!… I Did It Again remains iconic to this day, Stronger is an empowering gay club favourite, and the bittersweet Lucky, which almost feels autobiographical, remains the ultimate throwback for 90s kids.
Standout tracks: Womanizer, Circus, Unusual You
Circus was released just one year after the most controversial album of her career, Blackout, and was billed as Britney’s return to pure pop music after the darker electronic tones of the previous record. Lead single Womanizer and the bold If U Seek Amy, which managed to sneak the lyrics “F-U-C-K me” onto radio with the help of a genius double entendre, have become staples in Britney’s discography, and despite her reportedly wanting something “a little bit lighter” from the album, there are some surprisingly left-field tracks in the form of Unusual You, Blur and Mannequin. The album also delivered some of the most iconic visuals of her career, and its accompanying tour, The Circus Starring Britney Spears, has become legend among pop music lovers.
Standout tracks: I’m A Slave 4 U, Lonely, What It’s Like To Be Me
Just a few years into her career, and Britney was already on a first name basis with the world. But after two albums of girl-next-door visuals and bubblegum pop songs, she was ready to embrace adulthood, and so her first self-titled album became a transition of sorts. No song represents this better than I’m Not A Girl, Not Yet A Woman, a soaring ballad from her big screen debut in Crossroads which dealt with the struggles of entering adulthood. Other tracks like Overprotected reflected this theme, while lead single Slave 4 U, which remains a favourite among many Britney fans, was a taste of the sexually-empowered pop superstar that was about to emerge. It also saw her move sonically towards “something more urban” with the influence of idols Janet and Michael Jackson (as well as then-beau Justin Timberlake) weighing over the album’s industrial pop sounds and hip-hop beats.
3. In The Zone
Standout tracks: Toxic, Breathe On Me, Everytime
By today’s standards, In The Zone is a relatively tame pop album, but at the time of its release Britney found herself in a media whirlwind as misogynistic news outlets and concerned mothers took issue with the discovery that the former face of child-friendly pop was now an adult with adult desires. Shocker! Songs like Early Mornin’ and Breathe On Me saw the star embrace her sexuality with rigour and confidence, while Touch Of My Hand explored solo desire to mesmerising effect. The whole album was effortlessly cool, and saw Britney at her most hands-on, co-writing all but four tracks and even composing Everytime, which remains one of the most stunningly heartbreaking songs of all time. A special shoutout has to go to the album’s oft-ignored bonus tracks, The Answer and Don’t Hang Up, which absolutely should’ve been featured on the standard track list. Also: Toxic.
Standout tracks: The whole damn album
A product of the darkest moments of her life, Blackout was initially poorly received by critics and many fans, but in the years since has developed a cult following and a newfound respect among music lovers. The album was, in many ways, an uncredited trend-setter, heralding the introduction of EDM pop bangers (Gimme More, Piece Of Me) and dubstep-tinged production (Freak Show) years before her peers caught on and such sounds dominated the airwaves. Blackout’s producers were infamously told to avoid any reference to Britney’s personal life in their songwriting, but look behind the over-processed vocals and filthy club beats and you’ll find tracks that bluntly address her state of mind at the time. Why Should I Be Sad takes shots at ex-husband Kevin Federline, while Piece Of Me, the album’s standout track, is a brazen middle-finger to a vicious media intent on hounding and critiquing her every move, and featured one of the single greatest intro lyrics of her career: “I’m Miss American Dream, since I was 17.” Proving its legacy, the album was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012, and many up-and-coming pop stars credit the era as an inspiration on their own careers.
Standout tracks: Do You Wanna Come Over, Slumber Party, No Seas Cortes (Change Your Mind)
It’s a testament to Britney’s star power that after two decades in the business she released the most critically-acclaimed and beloved album of her career in the form of Glory. The wait was long, and fans were cautious when Britney referred to the album as her “artsy fartsy” baby – we were coming off the back of ‘most personal album ever’ Britney Jean and buzz single Pretty Girls, after all – but the end product was oh-so worth it. Filled to the brim with could’ve-been-singles, the album was the perfect blend of sultry slow burners (Invitation, Slumber Party), classic Britney bangers (Do You Wanna Come Over, Liar) and tender moments (Man On The Moon, Just Love Me). It also showcased her experimental side, with a quirky, hiccuping track that sounds like a Blackout deep cut (If I’m Dancing) and a song recorded entirely in French (Coupure Électrique) rounding out the album. We can’t wait to see what #B10 has in store for us.
If that’s not enough Britney Spears #content for you, we’ve rounded up 15 of her best deep cuts here.