I was in the 6th grade when I first heard Britney Spears' now iconic debut single, "...Baby One More Time." It was a game-changing moment for 11-year-old Alex, to say the least. "Who is this girl?" I wondered. "Where did she come from? ...And why does she say 'baby' like that?" I immediately demanded that my mom drive me to Target so I could buy the CD single. We didn't have cable, but I relished the opportunity to watch the music video on MTV's TRL at friends' houses. There was just something about Spears that was so utterly captivating.
Over 16 years later, there still is.
Sure, she may not dance as well as she used to and we don't hear her sing live much anymore, but there's no denying that Spears still has "it." Charisma, allure, charm, magnetism, "the X factor" — whatever you want to call it — Spears has got it (and she's got it in spades). Since she first burst onto the scene in 1998, she's sold over 100 million albums worldwide. Today, people are still flocking in droves (and paying top dollar) to see Spears perform live in her "Britney: Piece of Me" show in Las Vegas. That, my friends, is true star power.
In honor of the 10th anniversary of Spears' first greatest hits compilation, Greatest Hits: My Prerogative, let's take a look back at all 39 singles she's released as a lead artist worldwide — from the totally incredible to the totally forgettable:
#39. "From the Bottom of My Broken Heart" from ...Baby One More Time (Dec. 1999)
I can roll with cheesy, but "From the Bottom of My Broken Heart" is just too much (even for me).
#38. "(I've Just Begun) Having My Fun" from Greatest Hits: My Prerogative (Aug. 2004)
I usually love Spears' work with producers Bloodshy & Avant, but "(I've Just Begun) Having My Fun" is a notable exception.
#37. "Overprotected" (The Darkchild Remix) from Britney (Dec. 2001)
"Overprotected" was nominated for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance at the 45th Annual Grammy Awards in 2003. It lost to Norah Jones' "Don't Know Why."
#36. "Born to Make You Happy" from ...Baby One More Time (Dec. 1999)
"Born to Make You Happy's" chorus is catchy enough, but the verses just do nothing for me.
#35. "I'm Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman" from Britney (Feb. 2002)
Ugh, more cheese (and not the good kind). Interestingly, "I'm Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman" was co-written by Dido. No thank you (get it?).
#34. "Work Bitch" from Britney Jean (Sept. 2013)
Put simply: will.i.am (who co-produced "Work Bitch") ruins everything.
#33. "Someday (I Will Understand)" from Britney & Kevin: Chaotic (Aug. 2005)
"Someday (I Will Understand)" is a nice enough song, but it just doesn't leave a lasting impression. I had completely forgotten about it until now, to be honest.
#32. "Criminal" from Femme Fatale (Sept. 2011)
I liked "Criminal" at first, but then that flute really started to get on my nerves.
#31. "Oh La La" from The Smurfs 2 Soundtrack (June 2013)
#30. "3" from The Singles Collection (Oct. 2009)
"3" has to be the only pop song in existence about having a threesome that also name drops American folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary...right?
#29. "If U Seek Amy" from Circus (Mar. 2009)
It sounds like she's singing, "F-U-C-K me"! Isn't that sooo clever?
#28. "Womanizer" from Circus (Sept. 2008)
"Womanizer" was nominated for Best Dance Recording at the 52nd Annual Grammy Awards in 2010. It lost to Lady Gaga's "Poker Face" (that's fair).
#27. "Don't Let Me Be the Last to Know" from Oops! ...I Did It Again (Mar. 2001)
"Don't Let Me Be the Last to Know's" chorus is pretty epic.
#26. "I Love Rock 'n' Roll" from Britney (May 2002)
Joan Jett's version is better, but this one's fun, too.
#25. "Do Somethin'" from Greatest Hits: My Prerogative (Feb. 2005)
What are you gonna do when the crowd goes "Ayo!"?
#24. "Boys" (The Co-Ed Remix feat. Pharrell) from Britney (July 2002)
Remember Austin Powers? "Boys" was featured on the Goldmember soundtrack.
#23. "My Prerogative" from Greatest Hits: My Prerogative (Sept. 2004)
"They say I'm nasty/But I don't give a damn/Gettin' boys is how I live..." Same.
#22. "Sometimes" from ...Baby One More Time (Apr. 1999)
"Sometimes" is a perfect example of good cheese.
#21. "And Then We Kiss" from B in the Mix: The Remixes (Oct. 2005)
I really, really like this song, but I just kept liking other songs more! So many tough decisions.
#20. "I Wanna Go" from Femme Fatale (June 2011)
Which of Spears' masturbation anthems do you prefer? "I Wanna Go"? Or "Touch of My Hand"? Touch choice. I like 'em both, but "Touch of My Hand" wasn't a single, so...
#19. "Perfume" from Britney Jean (Nov. 2013)
Britney + songwriting by Sia Furler = <3.
#18. "Anticipating" from Britney (June 2002)
"Anticipating" makes me feel like I'm eating cotton candy at a roller rink, and I don't hate that. Not one bit.
#17. "Break the Ice" from Blackout (Mar. 2008)
"Break the Ice" wasn't a hit in the United States, but it's a hit in my heart.
#16. "Outrageous" from In the Zone (July 2004)
R. Kelly co-wrote "Outrageous," but strangely, knowing that doesn't affect my enjoyment of the song one bit. Outrageous!
#15. "Radar" from Circus (June 2009)
"Radar" actually first appeared as a bonus track on Blackout, but then, because it's way too good to be left as a bonus track, it was put on the standard edition of Spears' next album, Circus. I can't get enough of it. The hooks are flawless.
#14. "Lucky" from Oops! I Did It Again (Aug. 2000)
The bubblegum pop gloss of "Lucky" disguises even the songs most devastating lyrics: "If there's nothing missing in my life, then why do these tears come at night?" Whoa. Whoa.
#13. "Hold It Against Me" from Femme Fatale (Jan. 2011)
As far as I'm concerned, Spears started the dubstep trend in pop music in the United States with "Hold It Against Me." The song's wobbly middle eight section is a major "wow" moment, that's for sure.
#12. "Oops! ...I Did It Again" from Oops! I Did It Again (Mar. 2000)
Who could forget "Oops! ...I Did It Again's" corny spoken bridge, complete with Titanic reference?
#11. "Circus" from Circus (Dec. 2008)
Given Spears' public breakdown in 2007, these two particular lines from "Circus" give me the chills: "I feel the adrenaline movin' through my veins/Spotlight on me and I'm ready to break..."
#10. "Everytime" from In the Zone (May 2004)
"Everytime" is a simple song, but its effect is powerful.
#9. "Me Against the Music" (feat. Madonna) from In the Zone (Oct. 2003)
What a freakin' chorus. Also, Madonna.
#8. "(You Drive Me) Crazy" (The Stop Remix!) from ...Baby One More Time (Aug. 1999)
Forget the original version — The Stop Remix! is where it's at.
#7. "Stronger" from Oops! ...I Did It Again (Nov. 2000)
The chair dance from the music video is legendary.
#6. "Gimme More" from Blackout (Sept. 2007)
"It's Britney, bitch!" is beyond legendary.
#5. "I'm a Slave 4 U" from Britney (Sept. 2001)
Britney + songwriting & production by Pharrell Williams (and Chad Hugo) = <3
#4. "...Baby One More Time" from ...Baby One More Time (Sept. 1998)
The song that started it all.
#3. "Piece of Me" from Blackout (Nov. 2007)
Are these the most explicitly feminist lyrics in Spears' discography?: "I'm Miss Bad Media Karma/Another day, another drama/Guess I can't see the harm in workin' and being a mama/And with a kid on my arm/I'm still an exceptional earner/And you want a piece of me?"
#2. "Toxic" from In the Zone (Jan. 2004)
"Toxic" was nominated for Best Dance Recording at the 47th Annual Grammy Awards in 2005. Thankfully, it won. Woo hoo!
#1. "Till the World Ends" from Femme Fatale (Mar. 2011)
I realize that "Till the World Ends" might be a controversial choice for Spears' best single to date, but I grow more and more in love with the track with each listen. From its sexy verses to its massive chorus to its even more massive surprise second chorus (which shows up around the 2:34 mark), "Till the World Ends" is a musical thrill ride that only Spears could deliver. Like I said, she just has it.