Before The Goodbye: Britney Spears’ 10 Best Bonus Tracks
The fact that some of Britney Spears’ best bops have been relegated to bonus track status is one of life’s great mysteries. From the contemplative “Girl in the Mirror” to the sultry “The Answer,” many of the pop star’s leftovers could have been as big as her singles. I’ve rounded up 10 of Brit’s best hidden gems from over the years. Prepare to be slayed and check them out below.
10. “Girl in the Mirror” (Oops!… I Did It Again)
With the release of 2000’s Oops!…I Did It Again, one would assume that the then 19-year-old was on top of the world. She had avoided the dreaded sophomore slump with record-breaking first week sales and was billed as one of the biggest musical acts across the globe. Despite such impressive accolades, several songs on the project suggest that there was a darkness creeping in under the glimmer of gold. One of those is self-reflective “Girl in the Mirror,” which serves as a companion piece of sorts to “Lucky” and sees the “Stronger” hitmaker realizing that even superstars can feel alone. The track offers a rare glimpse into Britney’s psyche and takes on a somewhat prophetic quality considering her breakdown in 2007.
9. “Before The Goodbye” (Britney)
Brit played the doe eyed ingenue on her first two albums, but by the time her self-titled third LP dropped in 2002, she was beginning to explore a more mature aesthetic. Proclaiming herself a slave to the rhythm on the album’s lead single and complaining of being overprotected by handlers on the followup, she was rebelling against the pristine image of her past. As she transitioned from girl to woman, she began singing about love and heartbreak with more experience as evidenced by the lovelorn “Before the Goodbye.” Blending heartfelt lyrics with an anthemic production, the single proves that Britney Spears was crying in the club years before the likes of Camila Cabello and doing so without interpolating the works of her peers at that.
8. “Brightest Morning Star” (Britney Jean)
Sia is responsible for penning some of the most successful singles in recent years, and fans were ecstatic to see that she was a featured writer on 2013’s Britney Jean. The pair collaborated on the project’s second single “Perfume;” however the effort felt slightly sophomoric and was hardly the massive hit that was expected from the union. Thankfully, her other contributions to the album were better received, including the shimmering “Brightest Morning Star.” With production from the likes of Dr. Luke and Circuit, the bonus track is a return to Spears’ idyllic pop roots as she sings of finding redemption in her faith. “You’re my light when it gets dark. You’re always in my heart. You’re my brightest morning star,” she sings on the joyous chorus. Though she has said that the song is about her relationship with God, it could just as easily be about her sons. After all, her babies are her religion.
7. “Don’t Keep Me Waiting” (Femme Fatale)
In the months leading up to the unveiling of 2011’s Femme Fatale, Darkchild stoked fans to an absolute fever pitch while describing his contributions to the project. He revealed that Brit was heavily involved in their collaborations and was effortlessly jumping cross genres. Although the majority of the album was tailored for the clubs with slick dubstep breaks and candy-coated productions, the producer took the pop princess in an entirely different direction on the Travis Barker-assisted “Don’t Keep Me Waiting.” After experimenting with a rock edge on tour in 2009, the “Toxic” hitmaker growled across a hard-hitting drum line from the Blink-182 rocker. The release begins with an emboldened demand to turn the mic up and features some of Britney’s most confident vocals to date as she searches for sexual satisfaction.
6. “Phonography” (Circus)
Lady Gaga’s “Telephone” was up for consideration for the tracklist of 2008’s Circus; however, Team B ultimately decided to pass on what would become a top 10 hit. Their reasoning was that Brit had already recorded a phone-centric track for the project, “Phonography.” Whereas Mother Monster’s offering was about being smothered by constant communication, the Bloodshy & Avant-assisted selection was a more intimate affair. “I make no apologies, I’m into phonography,” Spears coos over an unhinged production before asking her boy toy to call her up for some old fashioned phone sex. Her delivery is a little more lusty than it was when she handled the same subject matter on 2004’s “Don’t Hang Up,” but the result is equally seductive.
5. “Better” (Glory)
2016’s Glory was released into a different pop soundscape than any Brit had encountered in the past. The days of dubstep-infused dance floor anthems or saccharine-sweet pop gave way in the face of trop pop’s sweet synths. While the project largely avoided the sound, the 35-year-old embraced it wholeheartedly on the BloodPop-produced “Better.” With writing from Justin Tranter and Julia Michaels, the summery anthem was an ode to being open in a relationship. “Gotta open up ’cause it feels much better, when we open up to each other,” she croons. After the kitschy come ons of “Hold It Against Me,” this release showed that the pop star was looking for something more than sex this time around.
4. “He About to Lose Me” (Femme Fatale)
“I’m touching hands with someone seriously beautiful,” Britney Spears declares in the opening line of Darkchild’s second contribution to Femme Fatale. There’s just one problem with her attraction: her heart is lusting after someone other than her current partner. After toying with a rocker-chic edge on “Don’t Keep Me Waiting,” “He About to Lose Me” is an emotionally fraught midtempo that pushed the hitmaker firmly back into the pop landscape she was more familiar with and featured some of her most distinctive vocals on the album.
3. “The Answer” (In The Zone)
2003’s In The Zone brought on a slew of new collaborators as Spears’ musicality veered away from straightforward, reliable pop in search of a more eclectic aesthetic. Several notable hip hop performers replaced the ever-reliable Max Martin and brought a harder edge to the project. One of those is P.Diddy, who helped craft a sultry declaration of appreciation to a lover on “The Answer.” Diddy kept the production sparse, creating a fizzing wall of sound that Brit coos over.
2. “Change Your Mind (No Seas Cortes)” (Glory)
There is a common thread that unites several of these bonus tracks: Don’t ever keep Britney Spears waiting. On the bilingual “Change Your Mind (No Seas Cortes), the pop princess makes it clear to her partner that she is ready to take things to the next level in their relationship. He’s been a gentleman all this time, and now she is ready to get a little more physical. Set to a striding production courtesy of Mattman and Robin, her request is unavoidable and seriously fire hot.
1. “Hold On Tight” (Britney Jean)
On an album billed as her most personal to date, Britney Spears spent far too much time playing the Princess of Pop, getting sexy in the club and commanding her fans to get to work (bitches) to truly bare her heart on the LP’s standard edition. Instead, she reserved the most intimate songs for deluxe editions of the LP, and none were more revealing that the sparse “Hold On Tight.” Allegedly one of the first songs recorded for the project, she sings in her lower register about a mysterious force that saved her from her darkest hour. It is unclear if that force is her sons, God, a romantic partner, a particularly good Starbucks Frappe, or potentially a mix of all of the above, but this is the hitmaker at her most raw. With thoughtful lyrics and strong vocals, the song provided a moment of artist growth and soul searching while proving that she was more than capable of maturing with her artistry.