Oh baby, baby: Here are all nine iconic Britney Spears albums ranked from worst to best
In The Zone remains the freshest thing to have ever touched my ears
I love Britney Jean Spears with all of my heart and soul. She is the global icon of our generation, a pop star who elevates her work beyond the music to the level of cultural phenomenon. Britney is that rare gem of a pop star where her albums as bodies of work are not just vehicles to stuff with filler and prop up the chart topping singles. Getting all of Britney Spears’ albums ranked from worst to best is no easy feat.
What Britney is allegedly going through with her conservatorship is devastating, and whilst the world shouts #FreeBritney, stands behind her and speaks up when she needs it most, I think it’s important to have a look back over the work she’s created that’s made her such an enduring and supported presence in our lives. These albums are her legacy, and solidified her as the landmark artist that she is.
Nine records. Two decades. Here are all of Britney Spears’ albums ranked, from worst to best.
9. Britney Jean (2013)
Even the most casual of Britney Spears fans know that when it comes to her albums, Britney Jean is definitely at the bottom of the ranked list. Before the record came out, Britney was quoted saying to the press that it was her “most personal album yet”, and then, well, everyone listened to it. Britney Jean is far from introspective. Lead single Work Bitch is one of its only highs – a camp, weird gay bar classic. Sadly, the lows on Britney Jean are LOW. Let’s not mention the Jamie Lynn Spears featured cut Chillin’ With You. For all our sakes.
A cheap sounding, EDM racket. Over produced and written without thought. The album is plagued by rumours and theories that allege Britney herself doesn’t even sing on half the tracks and that her backing singer Myah Marie recorded the lead vocals instead. Too many meaningless songs with uninspired drops. And far, FAR too much Will.i.am.
8. …Baby One More Time (1999)
A nostalgic album for the majority of the world’s population. …Baby One More Time is not a bad album by any means. In fact, it’s as perfect of a debut pop record that you could ask for circa the late 90s. Max Martin produced mega singles and sickly teen romance ballads – sung with the earnest charm of a 16 year old girl from Louisiana who was just bursting with star quality.
Everything Britney does that is great on this album, of which there are many, she will go on to do even better. The title track is one of the most iconic pop songs ever made. Sometimes, You Drive Me Crazy and Born To Make You Happy are bonafide classics. But the album has got a childish sheen to it that makes it pale in comparison to her more mature work. A bloody good start to a career, though!
7. Oops… I Did It Again! (2000)
If …Baby One More Time is Shrek, then Oops is Shrek 2. It builds on everything her debut record did and betters it. Second album slump? Britney Spears quite literally doesn’t know her.
It still has a lot of Disney kid cheese, but it takes bold steps into the mature direction her career was heading. Tracks like Stronger came out and slapped every Britney naysayer across the face. Oops was a second lead single like no other, Don’t Let Me Be The Last To Know showed a softer and more grown up Brit and it’s just a very solid sophomore record. It is plagued, however, by voice recordings at the end of a lot of the songs. They function as transitional interludes, and feature some VERY of the time chats between Britney and her pals (“yo Brit, you’re a NERD xD”) and they make the whole album feel like a teen movie. If that’s your vibe, you’ll love. But it gets old fast after your first listens.
6. Femme Fatale (2011)
Across all her albums, Femme Fatale is Britney Spears at her most vacuous. It is pure, robotic, auto-tuned fembot energy. And for the most part, it is absolutely hypnotic. The album rarely lets up steam. It gallops along at a high energy, high BPM, dance-till-you-die pace that leaves you breathless.
Britney feels like a spectral presence on her own record, which is both the album’s strength and its weakness. She’s there, but she’s distant. It is hard to relate to a lot of the tracks here. The big singles Hold It Against Me and Till The World Ends are dance floor classics, I Wanna Go is a vocoder filled beast and Criminal is a campy classic that got its well earned TikTok resurgence last year. How I Roll is early hyperpop, a weirdly produced album cut with Britney’s gasps for air building the melody. There are some dismal features on this record that drag it down slightly. Sabi (who?) features on Drop Dead Beautiful and almost ruins it all by rapping the lyrics “steaming like a pot full of vegetables”, and will.i.am’s droning vocals on Big Fat Bass are more numbing than local anaesthetic. But when Femme Fatale is good, it is groundbreaking.
5. Circus (2008)
Britney Spears albums can be split into two halves, pre-Blackout and post-Blackout. Circus is the first album to follow Blackout, and it kicks off the second half of her career in a way that feels like a complete mainstream rebirth. One major pain I have with this record is that Circus isn’t the opening track despite it literally feeling like a complete tone setter and an invite for the world to step into a Britney Spears album again after her widely publicised personal troubles.
This is THEE comeback album. It is taught in textbooks at the Pop Star Comeback School. Huge singles, great album tracks and big commercial success. I often find myself comparing Circus to albums like X by Kylie Minogue or Rebel Heart by Madonna – records that are great but not particularly cohesive. That’s Circus’ biggest flaw: All of the songs just feel a bit pulled from anywhere and everywhere. Nearly all of them, though, are incredible. Womanizer, Circus and If U Seek Amy are a triple threat of singles that left the industry quaking. Introspective moments like Blur, Shattered Glass and Out From Under are stunning. Phonography is a sexting masterpiece that was ahead of its time and Mmm Papi? We do not speak of Mmm Papi.
4. Glory (2016)
If this is the last Britney Spears album the world ever hears, at least she bowed out on fine form. Glory is an absolute triumph, especially considering the fact it’s a NINTH album and followed Britney Jean – an album that left many writing Britney Spears off forever.
On Glory, Britney’s vocals are an instrument for her producers to bend to their will in whatever way they want. She flips from her baby voice to her deep vocal register like a light switch. She growls and electronically howls across the album in consistently surprising ways. Britney spoke a lot when Glory came out about how much fun she had making it, and it really shows. Whilst Make Me and Slumber Party were great, solid singles, this album shines in its deep cuts. Mood Ring is one of the best modern songs she’s ever done, Liar is the lead single that never was and the complete stupidity of If I’m Dancing is carefree Britney Spears escapism in all its glory. Pun intended.
3. Britney (2001)
The world was shaking when it first got its glimpse of Britney Spears’ third album, incidentally placing third in the ranking. I’m A Slave 4 U is a juggernaut of a lead single. It’s a sexy, writhing orgy of a song that makes you feel sweaty just listening to it. Parents were outraged, but as Britney said, it isn’t (and never was!) her job to parent people’s children.
In essence, Britney is a coming of age album. It’s about growing up. I’m Not A Girl, Not Yet A Woman is the centrepiece – “I used to think I had the answers to everything” she sings, but soon learns nobody ever really does. There were expectations on Britney for her to know how to do everything right in her career first time, but this album lets everyone know it’s okay to make mistakes. Britney has the best production we’d heard from her up to this point; Pharrell assisted songs that sound like they could have been made in 2021 and still would sound cool and fresh. There’s an irresistible groove to Britney Spears here that’s not found on any of the other albums when ranked. It’s jubilant, it’s defiant and it’s cool as hell.
2. In The Zone (2003)
In The Zone is Britney Spears at her commercial peak. It has Toxic in its track list for God’s sake! But let’s not beat around the bush. In The Zone is Britney’s sex album.
This record is filth, and it’s oozing in confidence and style. It feels slick, polished and untouchable. It really floated above most other albums that were being released in 2003 with its star power and bluntly discussed sexual themes. Breathe On Me is arguably the best record to shag to ever made, and you won’t find an ode to masturbation more sensual than the deftly penned Touch Of My Hand. All this before we even get onto the obliterating pop force that is Toxic, Me Against The Music featuring MADONNA and Outrageous. Then we have Everytime, a ballad that really delved into Britney’s vulnerability. It’s completely written by her, music and lyrics, and is one of the most tearjerking, fragile songs I’ve ever heard. Everytime’s pain only is amplified listening to it knowing everything Britney will go through in her future.
When ranked, it stands out among the other Britney Spears albums as a body of work that feels like a woman who’s fully grown and now absolutely understands who she is. It’s a masterpiece.
1. Blackout (2007)
In 2012, Blackout was added to was added to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s archives due to its impact and legacy on the future of post-2007 pop music. In 2019, The Guardian placed it at 39 on its 100 Best Albums of the 21st Century ranking and Rolling Stone ranked it on its 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time list in 2020. It’s widely celebrated as the best of all of Britney Spears albums, and that is both in critical consensus and fan opinion. Blackout was written and record during Britney’s darkest time; a time where she was ridiculed and scoffed at by the tabloids and where her mental health was treated as nothing more than fuel for paparazzi.
With that in mind, Blackout’s success as an album is a testament to Britney’s resilience as a person and her creativity as an artist. Her producers frequently praised her for being completely switched on, present and hands on in the studio in Blackout’s recording sessions. Artists from Charli XCX to Lady Gaga have heralded Blackout as a significant influence on their careers (Britney recorded an early demo of Gaga’s Telephone), and Rob Sheffield of Rolling Stone said “When she dropped Blackout in 2007, the music industry scoffed, but then proceeded to spend the next few years imitating it to death, to the point where everything on pop radio sounded like Blackout.” Freakshow was the first mainstream use of dubstep, and is often credited with bringing its commercial breakthrough to the masses. From the singles to the album tracks, it’s all just a rollicking ride.
There’s a ferocity to Blackout. A cohesiveness. It’s the record of an artist unleashed. She started Blackout with a statement that never has gone out of style: It’s Britney, bitch.