Britney Spears is one of the most well known names in the industry and for a good reason. For almost 20 years, Britney has been a cultural icon. Her songs are known across the globe, her videos are staples on YouTube and music TV channel (if those are still a thing), and her concerts are always a media event (for better or for worse…LEAVE BRITNEY ALONE!). Since 1999, Britney has given us nine studio albums. All have their classic moments, but some are better than others. Here’s a ranking of Britney’s body of work from the ones to skip to the ones you cannot miss.

9. Britney Jean (2013)

Are you surprised? First off, this album isn’t unlistenable. It has great moments where it becomes undeniable Britney. However, a majority of the album just cannot sit alongside the rest of Britney’s discography. The biggest problem with this album is that it is written, produced, and executed like it is for another artist. It just isn’t Britney. Each track sounds very factory made and has very little heart and emotion. Britney sounds like she just doesn’t care for well over half of the record and honestly, can you blame her? This album noticeably suffers from what I call “Britney’s Touch”. Britney’s Touch is when Britney comes to even the most bland track and puts her stamp on it whether that be passionate vocals or one of her trademark sexy voice moments. None of that can be found here. This album clearly was made because it had to be, not because anyone involved wanted it to be. And when no one making the album can be bothered, why should we?

Essentials: Work Bitch, Perfume, Don’t Cry

8. …Baby One More Time (1999)

I know, I know grab your pitchforks. But take off your rose coloured nostalgia glasses off and listen. This album isn’t bad. It’s just not anywhere near Britney’s best. This album was made for its audience (teenagers) and on that front, it was successful. However, the music on this album is very factory made. Aside from the singles (and even some of those fit this bill) haven’t aged very well. The production is laid on thick on this album, making for a sappy album that is just a little too much at certain points. The innocent nature of the album feels very forced which makes the whole album come off as fake. However, the album does find strength in Britney’s commitment. At such a young age, Britney was very committed to her music and she performs the songs on the album with real determination. She had something to prove and she mostly hit the mark. Plus this album gave us one of the greatest debut singles in music history so it isn’t all bad.

Essentials: …Baby One More Time, Sometimes, Born To Make You Happy

7. Circus (2008)

Britney is honestly the Queen of Comebacks. Circus is Britney’s true comeback record (and not Blackout, let’s face it) in almost all ways. Britney had the attitude and confidence in this music which made this album sit well with fans and casual listeners alike. However, this album does have some issues. First off, the lyrics for this album are very high-school level. And that is a little difficult to swallow at some points. This album has a strong first half, but the second half is populated by almost entirely filler and there isn’t any real excuse for that. Basically, this is a singles album in every way. The songs that were meant to be singles got the attention and some of the other tracks feel like after thoughts. The bright side of these filler moments is Britney still sounds like she’s having fun. However, the over reliance on the singles to carry the album and the noticeable lack of attention to the back half of the album keep this album from being truly great.

Essentials: Circus, If U Seek Amy, Lace and Leather

6. Oops!… I Did It Again (2000)

This album is a pretty even split between the teeny bopper music that populated …Baby One More Time and the more mature material that populated Britney and beyond. The more mature moments on this album are the true standouts of the album. The material here is overall much stronger than her first album. However, Britney slips back into the teeny bop territory frequently. This album is very much a product of its time. The music is good and Britney mostly has a grasp on her sound and she added a lot more in her performance than she did the last time around. There are moments that today make me and most people cringe (the whole Titanic thing in the title track was honestly stupid even in 2000) but this album mostly carries fond memories with it. The slip backs into juvenile territory, especially in the middle section, hold this record back from climbing any higher. However, credit where it’s due to the fact that every song seems like it got equal attention from a production standpoint making everything feel very connected.

Essentials: Oops!… I Did It Again, Stronger, (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction

5. Femme Fatale (2011)

This was a surprisingly strong effort for Britney. When this album came out, Britney still wasn’t fully back in the hearts of the world as she has been before. Some turbulent moments during the Circus era and its accompanying tour made rising back to the top a bit more difficult. But Britney took it all in stride. She put her nose to the grindstone and created an album that she and her fans could really be proud of. The best thing about this album is that Britney finally sounds like she is enjoying herself, the music, and life all together. This album is a very fun ride from start to finish and that shouldn’t be undersold. However, this album gets bogged down at points because of too many cooks in the kitchen (and when is one of the head chefs, you know that you’re gonna get an average dish passed of as a fine dining…) which makes things uneven. There are so many genres tackled on this album which is exciting to start with but it all becomes confusing and disjointed. This album drops in strength toward the end, but it isn’t a limp to the finish. Overall, this album is a lot of fun with several shining moments that gets a little pulled apart by how many people are stuffed into its runtime.

Essentials: Till The World Ends, Hold It Against Me, Trouble For Me, Criminal

4. Glory (2016)

This album has no business being as good as it is. No one could have predicted the type of album that Britney decided to deliver to us with her most recent release. Having been made in the midst of a high profile Las Vegas residency, this album had all the potential in the world to be a disjointed, throwaway mess. But it is in truth cohesive, sexy, and very well put together. What Britney does best is surprise. 18 years into her career, she has consistently kept people on their toes. Here, Britney gave us an album that was unapologetic. The music on the album doesn’t feel like it was tailor made to find success on the radio, rather it is made for the enjoyment of the fans and Britney herself. When the artist is in love with the material, then the listener becomes endeared to it as well. The only thing about this album is that it a bit over long. A little more restraint in making the track listing would have been welcome, but overall this album is incredible and one of the strongest things Britney has given us in years.

Essentials: Man On The Moon, Slumber Party, Change Your Mind, Liar

read our review on britney’s “glory” here

3. Blackout (2007)

The fact that this album was made during what is called “the meltdown era” (which isn’t fair by the way…everyone has rough patches) and it came out this incredible is nothing short of a miracle. This album includes material darker than Britney’s hair on the cover. The dark material of the album is honestly what makes it so incredible. The production is tight, the lyrics are smart, and Britney’s performance is sexy as hell. It’s sad that took this dark spot in her life for Britney to be able to take full dominant control of her music. Britney gives us a lot in this album and it is something that we need to be thankful for. The weak point of the album however is that by the end, we have an over saturation of the dark themes. The best way to pull off a dark album is to balance it out with some lighter fare. This doesn’t happen by the end which makes the album have a downer feel. However, that is a small price to pay for the incredible showing that we get here from Britney.

Essentials: Gimme More, Radar, Break The Ice, Get Naked (I Got a Plan)

2. Britney (2001)

Britney broke the stereotype and she broke it hard. Before this album, Britney was seen as nothing more than just a young girl who got lucky with good looks and factory made hits. By the end of the Oops! Tour, Britney was obviously through with being shortchanged. So she got in the studio and she made it happen. This album is one of the most drastic shifts between albums that any artist has ever made. Britney was growing into herself and she took her music with her. Baby and Oops were the middle school and early high school of Britney’s career. This album was Senior year. Looking back to see where she came and looking forward to see where she is going. This album boasts arguably the best lyrics in Britney’s career as well as some of the most danceable, rhythmic, and enjoyable instrumentals of any pop record. Britney plays the role here very well. She isn’t the total mature badass she would become, but she also wasn’t the little teenager that could anymore. Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman sums this album up perfectly. This is a shift and it’s handled so well. The only thing negative to say is that it holds back just a bit, but not enough to take away from this achievement.

Essentials: I’m a Slave 4 U; I’m Not A Girl, Not Yet A Woman; Overprotected, What It’s Like To Be Me

1. In the Zone (2003)

As of right now, this is Britney’s masterpiece. Her magnum opus. Not only does this album build on the foundations set by “Britney”, it created an entirely new standard for what a mature pop album should be. Britney shed her inhibitions here and she went for it. She took what was left of her good girl image and set it alight and threw it out the window. Tackling subjects such as sex, masturbation, love, heartbreak, growing up, and finding yourself. Every song on this album is treated with respect and given the attention to detail that they needed. Nothing about this album feels undercooked. Britney is the ringleader. The music itself is some of the most inventive and creative of any 2000’s pop album. The most impressive thing about this album is that nearly every song could have been a single and would have worked. This album took any sort of expectations and flew far beyond them. Britney hit her home run here and she was completely unapologetic about finding herself as a young woman. Plus she collaborated with Madonna and that alone makes this album a gem. But make no mistakes, it’s a diamond with or without Madonna.

Essentials: Me Against the Music, Breathe on Me, Toxic, Touch of My Hand, Everytime

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