5 Britney Spears Albums That Define Her Artistic Evolution

The world of pop music would not be the same without the presence of Britney Spears. Since she strutted through high school hallways in a catholic school girl outfit in the iconic music video”…Baby One More Time,” Spears has continued to be a force in the music world despite all the challenges she’s faced. She offers a detailed account of those challenges in her new memoir, The Woman in Me. Music has long been the marker of her creative identity which is evident in her discography. Below, we look at five of Spears’ nine studio albums that truly define her artistic evolution.

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[RELATED: ‘The Woman in Me’ Review: For Britney Spears, Music is a Sanctuary]

5. ...Baby One More Time

The world would likely be unaware of Britney Spears without the album that started it all: …Baby One More Time. When the album dropped in 1998, it marked a threshold for women in pop music. The album’s popularity was due in large part to the iconic title track and accompanying video (the concept was Spears’ idea). But it’s Spears’ distinct voice that balances a gravely sound and sense of maturity beyond her then-17 years with her genuine sweetness that truly defines the sound of the album. Baby One More Time launched Spears’ stratospheric career in motion.

4. Glory

Glory is one of Spears’ best, most underrated albums. As Spears writes in The Woman in Me, Glory marked one of the rare occasions while living under the highly restrictive conservatorship when she had creative control. She was thriving in the studio at the time, and that shows up in the music. Co-writing several songs, Spears experimented with a variety of sounds and sang in three different languages (English, Spanish, and French). Spears sounds more playful and exploratory than ever on Glory, the album reflecting her artistic spirit.

3. Britney

When Britney arrived in 2001, it was clear that the superstar was ready and willing to shed her child-star image, stepping into a more mature artistic vision. Spears dropped “I’m a Slave 4 U” as the album’s lead single, written and produced by Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo of The Neptunes. She proved herself to be fearless in standing by her artistic choices, even though the video received immense backlash at the time. Britney blended her sweet pop sound with her edgier new vibe, making for a truly dynamic album. True to one of the album’s hits, “I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman,” Spears was in a transition phase that set the tone for the rest of her career.

2. In the Zone

In 2003, Spears built upon the urban sound she established with Britney and took it to even greater heights with In the Zone. Taking the reigns more as a songwriter (she co-wrote eight of its 12 tracks), Spears proved she was a fearless writer, whether singing about self-love on “Touch of My Hand” or demonstrating true vulnerability on the peaceful ballad “Everytime.” Her collaborators ran the spectrum, ranging from fellow pop icon and hero Madonna to hip-hop duo the Ying Yang Twins. In the Zone put Spears in the driver’s seat, making for one of her most innovative albums.

1. Blackout

There’s perhaps no more a defining album in Spears’ career than Blackout. In 2007 during one of the most turbulent times in Spears’ personal life, the superstar released her best album. Despite the tabloids portraying her life as unstable and chaotic, Spears proved to be fully present in her musical life, hand-selecting Danja as the album’s producer, with Spears herself acting as executive producer. The dark, dirty, and disorienting sound, as evidenced by signature tracks like “Gimme More” and “Piece of Me,” is what makes it timelessly cool.

The singer herself cites Blackout as her favorite album she’s ever recorded, writing in The Woman in Me: “The album was kind of a battle cry. Blackout was one of the easiest and most satisfying albums I ever made…I needed to have more self-worth and value than I was able to conjure back then. And yet, even though it was a very hard time in just about every other way, artistically it was great. Something about where I was in my head made me a better artist.”

Referred to by Spears’ fanbase as the “Bible of Pop,” Blackout proved that Spears’ artistic compass always points her in the right direction, making for an unforgettable album that defined pop music for years to come.

Photo by John Shearer/WireImage

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