Britney Spears: Ronald Asadorian/
Brian Hiatt
November 19, 2003 AT 05:00 AM EST

We rank Britney’s best and worst songs

Even some of Britney Spears’ most avid fans may be less interested in the 21-year-old’s body of work than, well, her actual body. But despite the heavy burden of a 1,000-sit-up-a-day regimen, Spears has found time over the last five years to record some classic pop songs — along with a few that are best experienced as sound-optional videos. As the star prepares to release her fourth album, ”In the Zone,” Nov. 18, takes a look back at her greatest — and most god-awful — songs.


”…Baby One More Time” (from ”…Baby One More Time,” 1999)
The three-note riff (Dun-dun-DUN!) that kicks off Spears’ first single is, for better or worse, Gen-Y’s equivalent of the two chords that start ”Smells Like Teen Spirit.” The song — courtesy of Swedish producer-songwriter-genius Max Martin — ushered in an all-too-brief era of teen-pop dominance. And like most of Martin’s work (see the Backstreet Boys’ ”I Want It That Way”) it is perfectly crafted, from the melancholy chord changes, to the faux-funk rhythm section, to the cotton-candy harmonies backing the then-16-year-old Britney’s preternaturally mature growl. Just ask pop connoisseurs Fountains of Wayne (”Stacy’s Mom”), who recorded a little-heard cover version.

”Stronger” (from ”Oops!.. I Did It Again,” 2000)
By her second album, Spears was ready for diva-dom, and Martin obliged with this shamelessly bombastic dance-rock track. A buzzy synthesizer provides heavy-metal-style power chords, which surge over a straight-outta-Sweden hip-hop beat. Meanwhile, a multilayered Spears sings ”I Will Survive”-style female empowerment lyrics: ”Now I’m stronger than yesterday/Now it’s nothing but a mile away.” Even grown men sang along, albeit furtively.

”I’m A Slave 4 U” (from ”Britney,” 2001)
Spears had already declared herself ”not that innocent,” but she proved it on the blatantly sexual ”Slave.” Downright radical in its minimalism, the backing track — courtesy of hip-hop masters the Neptunes — consists of little more than a thumping, bongo-led beat, and a few chirping keyboard notes. That leaves Britney’s moaning vocal (”Baby, don’t you wanna dance up on me”) — and rhythmic panting –as the main attraction. And attractive it was: Just ask her lucky python pal from the ’01 VMAs.


”Dear Diary” (from ”Oops!… I Did It Again”)
Despite the mastery displayed in her best early songs, Britney was a teenager when she started — and sometimes it showed. Witness ”Dear Diary,” an agonizingly sincere ode to a cute boy — and, more importantly, to the journal in which she writes about him. ”No one in this world knows me better than you do, so diary, I confide in you,” she breathes in a thin soprano, as a tinkly synthesized piano pours syrup beneath her. Dear diary, please make it stop.

”Oops!… I Did It Again” (from ”Oops!… I Did It Again”)
”…Baby One More Time” was so perfect that Spears and Martin couldn’t resist trying to record it one more time, in the form of ”Oops.” The song cops nearly every element of ”Baby,” adding a dumber refrain and a brainless spoken-word segment in which, inexplicably, Brit’s crush gives her the necklace from ”Titanic.” Which, according to the song’s video, somehow ended up on the moon. Oops!

”E-Mail My Heart” (From ”…Baby One More Time”)
In 1998, the concept of electronic mail must have seemed novel enough to merit its own song. Hence, Spears’ very worst track finds the singer doing her best to growl these lyrics: ”All I do is check the screen to see if you’re okay… E-mail me back and say your love will stay alive.” Just wait for the follow-up: ”Text Message My Soul.”

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