In a handwritten letter to her LGBTQ fans published by Billboard Pride last year, Britney Spears expressed her love and appreciation for the community: “Your stories are what inspire me, bring me joy and make me and my sons strive to be better people.” Whether filming an anti-bullying video for Spirit Day, writing to a young gay fan who was thinking of committing suicide, joining forces with other artists to sing for the Pulse victims, or appearing in a video in Brazil that denounced anti-gay violence, Britney has been an invaluable ally to the community, from her early days as a cute pop princess to her current status of cultural icon.
Earlier this year, the pop icon received the GLAAD Vanguard Award for promoting LGBTQ rights, and her impassioned acceptance speech nearly brought the house down: “We can all join hands together here and know that we are all beautiful. And we can lift each other up and show our gifts without hesitation,” Brit told an electrified crowd.
Here’s a look at eight must-have Britney hits for your Pride playlist:
The first single from Britney’s eighth studio album Britney Jean, “Work Bitch” is a song that she wrote with her gay friends in mind. “I don’t call everyone… that word. I just use it as, it’s like in respect to the gays as a term of endearment,” she told U.K. gay talk show host Alan Carr in 2013. Will.i.am, who was the track’s executive producer, told Billboard that “Work Bitch” reflected Britney more than anything on the album.
In 2007, after months of seeing her very public personal life plunging into unknown territory, Britney had planned her comeback performing this catchy pop electro track at the MTV Video Music Awards. It backfired. The lackluster performance fueled speculation that she would never be able to recover -- and it also turned gay YouTuber Chris Crocker into an overnight internet sensation, with his passionate plea to “Leave Britney alone!” But, as it is with so many LGBTQ people, Britney’s story is one of survival; against all odds, she found the strength to bounce back. It did get better, indeed: Nine out of her 13 top 10 Billboard Hot 100 hits came after that. As if to remind the world that, after all, she’s Britney, bitch!
Released in 2000, “Stronger” still plays like an inspirational anthem for a generation of LGBTQ people. “I’m stronger than yesterday, now it’s nothing but my way, my loneliness ain’t killing me no more” is a perfect mantra for those struggling for acceptance. Being true to yourself by embracing your sexuality and understanding your gender identity can be a treacherous path from many in the community. “Stronger” has helped a lot of queer people to accept themselves. It was the song that made Britney realize her enormous gay following. “I really started noticing more gays] coming to the shows,” Spears told PrideSource.com in 2013. “People were emulating my clothes and wearing the same outfits, and it was just really fun.”
"Slumber Party" (feat. TInashe)
The video for “Slumber Party” has it all: It’s sexy, risqué, noir, chic and… Oh, yes, it has a lot of hot girl-on-girl action on a velvet couch between Brit and the gorgeous Tinashe. The video also pays homage to the queen: Britney gets down on her knees and licks spilled milk on the table, in a clear reference to Madonna’s “Express Yourself” video from 1989.
"Me Against the Music" (feat. Madonna)
The princess meets the queen; the gays nearly die. During rehearsals for the 2003 MTV Music Video Awards, that legendary show where Madonna, Britney and Christina Aguilera kiss on the mouth, Brit played Madonna the track and asked if she’d be interested in recording “Me Against the Music” together. The answer was yes and history was made. The following year, the song won hot dance single at the 2004 Billboard Music Awards.
This midtempo dance-pop song is considered by critics as the most personal track from her Britney Jean album. The lyrics are extremely relevant to the struggles of growing up as a minority and feeling like an outcast: “There was a time I was one of a kind/ Lost in the world out of me myself and I/ Was lonely then like an alien/ I tried but I never figured it out/ Why I always felt like a stranger in a crowd.” As she explained to PrideSource in 2013: “The song is basically about when you’re all alone and you feel like you’re alienated from the world.”
"I’m a Slave 4 U"
When she released “I’m a Slave 4 U” in 2001, Britney wanted to show the world that her bubblegum pop princess era had passed and that a fierce diva had emerged. The video introduced a new sweaty, sexy and horny Britney to the world, and an iconic performance at th 2001 the VMAs -- when she walks around the stage with a seven-foot albino Burmese python wrapped around her shoulders -- solidified her status as a gay diva legend. Oh, the drama!
When it’s time for Britney to perform “Freakshow” during her Piece of Me tour, she tells the audience that she wants to “get naughty.” She then grabs an unsuspecting guy from the audience, has her male dancers dress him up in a leather harness, puts him on his knees and walks him on a leash. Woof!