Back in the late 1990s, a pop star going by the name of Britney Jean Spears, a former Mouseketeer of The Mickey Mouse Club TV show, alongside NSYNC's Justin Timberlake and JC Chasez, Christina Aguilera and future Hollywood actor, Ryan Gosling, made her chart breakthrough at just 16 years old with the debut hit, 'Hit Me Baby One More Time' and through that, she became the poster girl of pop, singing about things about young love and stuff like that. Britney would go on to achieve further fame and fortune and of whom is still revered by many of her fans and fellow peers in the music business for reviving and being one of the originators of teen pop. Being the same age as Britney myself and with her being born in 1981, during the mid to late 1990s in my teens, I grew up with the Max Martin/Cheiron periods of Britney Spears (and arguably are still the most defining eras of her pop success to this date).
Whilst she is still going strong and still actively making music today, she's been in the game for as long as three decades and for any pop artist who has been making pop music for as long as she has, and has had obtained the level of success that they have, be it Britney, Kylie, Madonna likewise, they pretty much deserve to be lauded as the true pop icons and legends of all-time. Okay, they might have had songwriters penning their songs and thus, they played a central role in their success, but there is no taking away that some of Britney's classic hits and anthems are timeless and some of today's artists and singers, particularly female pop stars, have either cited or voiced their appreciation of and for Brit as a musical influence or inspiration to themselves, as well as in advancing their own careers. Notable performers include Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, Selena Gomez, Miley Cyrus, Rihanna, Ava Max and Lady Gaga.
It wasn't so much that Britney's shift from teeny-bopper bubblegum pop singer to a more grown-up, sensuous and experienced Britney was to be expected; at the time of 2003 it felt sort of, sudden perhaps and unforeseen, but it was also a period through which pop music was heading into a different direction: 2007's Blackout was and still is hailed by many as her best effort to date and released at a time when Britney had a bit of a tough spell in her private life - yet in listening to it today, it felt like to me as if it lacked the energy and sought after pure pop anthems and tunes of her earlier outings that helped define her as a colossal star. And but for Toxic, as much as I tried, I just couldn't get into that album.
Songs and albums-wise, consistently, but for perhaps say after, In The Zone, Britney had some of the best material on the trio in Baby, One More Time, Oops!, I Did It Again and Britney. She has a very extensive and quintessential discography going as far back as to the LP, Baby, One More Time and the success of that album, not to mention debut single, launched her to superstardom, it was challenging enough to select just 10 songs (as she has so many great ones to choose from, both released and unreleased-wise) and in determining what are the key attributes that make for a great Britney Spears pop record: catchy, memorable and great melodies, great vocal work, just songs that you want to rewind and listen to over and over again.
''when you need someone you just turn around, & I will be there. When your feeling low, baby, let me know, & I will be there''
2. Born To Make You Happy (1999) - Baby, One More Time; a breakup song, and arguably the best Britney Spears ballad, by far. Terrific melodies, was a bit surprised to learn it received mixed reviews from critics and that this mid-tempo-ish song wasn't released as a single in the U.S in favour of From The Bottom Of My Broken Heart. As number one singles go for her, Born To Make You Happy is often overlooked.
''I don't know how to live without your love, I was born to make you happy. 'Cause you're the only one up in my heart, I was born to make you happy''
3. (You Drive Me) Crazy (1999) - Baby, One More Time; as infectious as the debut, Baby, One More Time, my favourite version is the album version over the 'Stop' remix, I love the pop-rock vibes in this one, and the bridge is great and plus, it sounds less 'mechanical' if that is the right word, or be it processed. Song-wise, it has a similar structure to Oops!... I Did It Again, although (You Drive Me) Crazy is more upbeat and danceable. The third single off Baby, One More Time, this is still a choon, despite it featuring in the rom-com movie flop titled, You Drive Me Crazy starring Melissa Joan Hart of Sabrina The Teenage Witch.
''You drive me crazy I just can't sleep, I'm so excited I'm in too deep. Ohhh... crazy, but it feels alright, baby, thinkin' of you keeps me up all night''
4. Stronger (2000) - Oops! ... I Did It Again; Kelly Clarkson's Stronger is great, but Britney's Stronger is an even greater song and the production is first-class throughout. Empowering, energetic and impressive, thanks to Max Martin's arrangement and penned lyrics, that, along with Britney's vocal style, helps elevate the song to a whole different level
''Now I'm stronger than yesterday, now it's nothing but my way, my loneliness ain't killing me no more, I, I'm stronger''
5. What U See (Is What U Get) (2000) - Oops! ... I Did It Again; the sheer volume of potential and could-have-been and should-have-been Britney tracks, both album wise and unreleased that would have made for great singles is enormous, and being in the vein of Stronger, What U See... would have made for yet another hit chart record in the making.
''What you see is what you get, this is me, hey you, if you want me, don't forget, you should take me as I am, 'cause I can promise you, baby what you see is what you get''
6. Lucky (2000) - Oops!... I Did It Again; I noticed that the bassline of this song kind of plays out similarly to Ben E. King's Stand By Me; still, this is very melodic and infectious about a star named Lucky who has everything, money, fame but happiness.
''She's so lucky, she's a star, but she cry, crym cries in her lonely heart, thinking if there's nothing missing in my life, then why do these tears come at night''
''think of all the time that I wasted, think of all the times that I took you back, ain't no way I'll be lonely, I don't wanna let you back in, let's just face it (face it) better off alone and I won't turn back, thought that I would be lonely, I don't wanna let you back in''
8. Anticipating (2001) - Britney; has that shimmering, summery vibe that is part-bubblegum pop, part- Janet Jackson; speaking of which it sounds rather similar to Janet's All For You and is very '70s disco-ish also. It's groovy as hell.
''I'll be anticipating, this is our song they're playing, I wanna ride with you, you're feeling this right, let's do this tonight''
9. Sometimes (1999) - Baby One More Time; one of her more grown-up tracks, this mid-tempo ballad is one of her most memorable ballads alongside Born To Make You Happy. The Soul Solution Mid-Tempo mix is my favourite remix, it takes the original and turns it up several notches with its upbeat, poppier feel that it gives off.
''Sometimes I run, sometimes I hide, sometimes I'm scared of you. But all I really want is to hold you tight, treat you right, be with you day and night. Baby, all I need is time''
10. Shadow (2003) - In The Zone tied with I'll Never Stop Loving You - Baby One More Time (1999); I wasn't keen on Britney's covers, but I'll Never Stop Loving You was brilliant and a perfect choice for her vocals. This was a cover of an R&B single that was originally sung by J-Son in 1995, which I loved but it didn't light up the charts. It was given a pop twist, a few years later back in 1998/1999 by Britney and Max Martin, and her rendition here was great and in listening to it, her vocals sound amazing, especially when she hits all the high notes. Shadow was probably the highlight of the R&B-imbued In The Zone, that I enjoyed, but it didn't have more songs that I loved that her previous three albums produced. This is a slow song, but a very good one, which is unfortunately slept on. For me anyway, Shadow is the superior Britney ballad from In The Zone and one I'd take this over Everytime, which received a single release but it was pretty blase. Shadow is virtuously beautiful & swaying; I just couldn't choose out of these two Britney ballads.
''It's only your shadow, never yourself, it's only your shadow, nobody else. It's only your shadow, filling the room, arriving too late and leaving too soon, and leaving too soon'' - Shadow
''From now until forever, that's how long I'll be true, I will make you this vow & promise you now until forever, I'll never stop (never stop), never stop loving you'' - I'll Never Stop Loving You
*Honourable Mentions: From The Bottom of My Broken Heart, Deep In My Heart, Overprotected, Cinderella, I'm Not A Girl Not Yet A Woman, Can't Make You Love Me, Circus, I Wanna Go, (Drop Dead) Beautiful, I'm So Curious, You Got It All, She'll Never Be Me, Tell Me (Am I A Sinner?), Criminal, When I Say So, Guilty (alternative version), Instant Dejavu, Rockstar, Pull Out, Quicksand (featuring Lady Gaga), All That She Wants, Burning Up (Madonna cover), Kiss You All Over, Walk On By, 3, Piece of Me, Criminal, Don't Go Knocking On My Door, Oops! I Did It Again, When I Say So, Let Me Be, That's Where You Take Me, Showdown, Intimidated