A Statistical Analysis of Which Britney Spears Song Is the Best
2014 is the year we eliminate all opinions in favor of cold, hard data.
I’ve been having a lot of drunken arguments recently over which Britney Spears song is the best, so the other night when I was pregaming alone with a bottle of YellowTail I decided that I would take it to the hivemind and let them draw the verdict. 2014 is the year we’re finally going to eliminate opinions once and for all in favor of cold, hard data.
Having opinions is so 2013, right? I mean there’s nothing worse than watching Twitter critics argue over the validity of the term “chillwave” as a legitimate genre descriptor, or lecture about which Beyoncé video had the best wardrobe styling. It seems like every 26-year-old with an Internet connection thinks they’re Susan Sontag, posting meandering thinkpieces that are rife with purple prose and bad metaphors, or seven-paragraph status updates about whether or not selfies are narcissistic. 2014 is the year of the reporter, my friends, and while I didn’t exactly leave my cozy Greenpoint apartment to hit the pavement looking for answers, I did take the time to ask some questions.
I’m no statistician or sociologist, so you’re not going to get the most controlled, rigorous scientific findings here, but I can do a little to try and contextualize the data to account for any possible skewing.
First of all, let’s account for age: I’m 24-years-old—and the ages of this poll’s entrants range from 23 to 28, with a few outliers in the 30-35 range. So it’s not surprising that the results skew towards Spears’ early catalogue. Adolescence and pre-adolescence are the most impressionable times in a person’s life, and we’re probably just too old to appreciate the garbage she’s putting out in 2014.
A little more info about my friends and me: I live in Brooklyn, New York. I’m a white, Jewish liberal arts graduate born into affluence in Boston, Massachusetts—I’d say that my network of friends skews towards a similar demographic, but not overwhelmingly. There were 41 data points.
I also work at VICE, so my peer group could charitably be described as “a sack of hipster dipshits.”
I’m not going to take any more of your time drawing out all the biases and potential implications that could skew our data, but keep that all in your head as we move forward into the numbers. One more thing to take into account: some of the people polled offered their own internal rankings of Britney Spears songs, but for these purposes I’ve flattened all of that data and treated them all as votes for the top Spears single. Seems fair, right? OK, time for the results:
“Toxic” scored highest with nine votes. One of the poll’s respondents reminded me that Miike Snow produced the 2003 single—those fucking Swedes, huh? Also I’m almost positive you’ve never heard the grime version of this track, where seminal MC Jammer drops one of the most intimidating verses of all time on this Spears classic. Was I right? Here, it’s track five on this Prancehall mix from VICE UK in 2007.
In close second place was 2001’s “Slave 4 U,” with seven votes. It’s worth mentioning that my friend Gina switched her original vote from “Till the World Ends” after a few hours of careful consideration, but still wasn’t able to tip the results. Other comments include: “I was so inspired by overt sexuality as an 11-year-old.” Which, uh, yeah.
And in third is “Lucky,” which one THUMP contributor referred to as a “dark horse” and another commenter called a “sleeper.” I might call it a “deep cut” or a “B side.” It had four votes. This song pretty much cemented my understanding of what fame does to a person, romanticizing the tortured pathology of my favorite celebrities. I always hoped that one day I would be this famous and sad.
The rest of the data is a big, messy long tail, which you can see below. But beyond the top rankings, there are a couple of interesting things that happened in this poll:
First of all, a friend in DC brought the SALEM version of “Til the World Ends” to my attention, and I’m thankful for that.
“…Baby One More Time” and “Oops I Did it Again” scored surprisingly low with two votes each, which is weird considering my theory about the impressionability of young adolescents. I guess I forgot to account for the memory loss that comes with four years of getting shit-bombed in college, probably because I also suffer from it.
There was only one vote for “Stronger,” which is clearly the best Britney Spears song behind “(You Drive Me) Crazy,” which was my vote.
One friend went for the wild card and posted “Sometimes,” a 1999 ballad that is more Mandy Moore than Britney Spears. It’s an OK song—and the key modulation that happens halfway through is breathtaking, I’ll admit—but my friend posted it for the video: “MTV videos in summer '99 had a serious beach theme. See: ‘Genie in a Bottle’ by Christina Aguilera. A year later, Blink-182 released a video for ‘All the Small Things’ that parodied this theme from the previous summer. ‘Sometimes,’ by Britney Spears, I think, is one of the weaker examples of late 90s/early aughts beach themed videos.” Interesting Will!
There was one vote for “Email My Heart,” which wins the award for best Britney Spears song title. It’s a stripped-down piano cut that really lets Britney’s scoops shine.
And one respondent really shut the game down, admitting that “Oops I did it Again” was superior, but that what we really should be talking about Crossroads. Well played, sir. Well played.
Find a Spotify playlist of all of the songs submitted (plus a weird Karaoke version of “Email My Heart”) below.
Max Pearl is the Managing Editor of Thump and is not as exciting in person as his writing might suggest. He's on Twitter - @maxpearl