Britney Spears’ latest single, “Work Bitch,” is becoming a massive hit after being released earlier this week. This is especially significant (to Britney fans, at least) because it’s the first Britney song in years that she’s actually written herself. In fact, it’s the first Britney-penned single in a decade! Here’s a brief look back on the writing history of the Princess of Pop.
Britney didn’t write anything on her debut album, as she was a relative unknown. But for Oops!… I Did It Again in 2000, Britney made her songwriting debut with the final track on the album, “Dear Diary.” The song is about as Y2K-esque as you can get, with vibey keyboards and a soft ballad coos taking up a brisk 2 minutes and 45 seconds.
The rest of Oops! was written by the biggest hitmakers of the day. (Fun fact: “Don’t Let Me Be The Last To Know” was written by Robert “Mutt” Lange and Shania Twain!)
On 2001’s self-titled Britney, Miss Spears expanded her writing prowess, co-writing four tracks, including the stomping “Lonely” as well as “Anticipating,” “Cinderella,” “Let Me Be,” and “That’s Where You Take Me.” She received lead writing credits on each song except for “Cinderella.”
(Fun facts for Britney: “I’m A Slave 4 U” was co-written by this summer’s ubiquitous hit-maker Pharrell. “I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman” was co-written by Dido! And the album’s final track, ‘”What It’s Like to Be Me” was written by Britney’s then-current flame Justin Timberlake.)
Britney hit her creative peak in 2003, receiving lead writing credit for nine of the thirteen songs on In The Zone. One of these songs was “Me Against The Music,” her smash hit with Madonna. Until this week, “Me Against The Music” was the last Britney-penned song to be released as a single. It was without a doubt her highest-profile self-written hit, charting in dozens of countries. And of course there is the iconic music video. Go watch it. It was controversial in 2003 because two girls kissed.
Another of Britney’s writing credits on In The Zone was the very personal piano-driven ballad “Everytime.” Although Britney has never confirmed or denied it, it is widely assumed that the song is about JT, written in response to his scathing “Cry Me A River.”
Of course, we all know what came next. Several years of personal troubles sidetracked Britney professionally. On her 2007 disc Blackout, released at the apex of her personal chaos, she received last-billed co-writing credits on only two songs toward the end of the album.
While she was clearly in a much better place when Circus came out a year later, her songwriting stayed virtually non-existant. She co-wrote three songs at the end of the album, but none of them were released as singles. For 2011’s Femme Fatale, she didn’t write a note. (Although, to be fair, she wrote the song “Scary,” which was unreleased everywhere except for the Japanese deluxe version of the album.)
And that brings us to today. Britney co-wrote “Work Bitch” with her current partner-in-crime will.i.am. The song is storming up the charts worldwide, and garnering the best reviews Brit’s had in years. And it looks like “Work Bitch” is a taste of things to come. Britney tweeted that she was writing a “beautiful” song with Sia. And will.i.am seems to be excited about something that Britney is working on with William Orbit.
As she begins her two-year Vegas residency, Ms. Spears seems to be approaching new ground creatively. For fans of the legendary pop star, these are exciting times. Now go download “Work Bitch” and listen to it several hundred times.