In November 2021, Britney Spears’ controversial conservatorship came to an end following a worldwide fan movement to change the way in which the pop superstar’s life and career were managed. Over the past year-and-a-half, Spears, who had been under the conservatorship for 13 years, settled into a new reality. The pop icon — whose debut single “…Baby One More Time” became the first of her five No. 1s on the Billboard Hot 100 and catapulted the teenager to international stardom — has been active on social media, posting videos and messages that have stoked fan and media speculation over the last 18 months. Since the end of her conservatorship, she also scored her biggest hit in years, crashed an unexpected Billboard chart for the first time and watched fans interact with and champion a catalog of music that stretches back a quarter century.
Details about the future of Spears’ recording career, including any new full-length to follow 2016’s Glory, are scarce. Yet millions of listeners remain engaged with her brand of pop on streaming platforms, radio stations and on social media sites like Instagram and TikTok. Looking at data on Luminate, we can observe how certain songs and albums have evolved on these platforms over time — Spears’ biggest catalog hit on streaming platforms today, for instance, was not her biggest hit at the time of its release.
Here are five fascinating facts about the current state of Britney Spear’s music consumption — which may give some clues into what’s next for Britney.
Her streaming numbers have been steady pre- and post-conservatorship.
In the year and a half since Spears’ conservatorship ended, her streaming listenership has been nearly identical over that time period compared to the 18-month period that preceded it. From Nov. 4, 2021 to May 4, 2023, Spears’ catalog earned 1.01 billion U.S. on-demand song streams, according to Luminate — and from May 1, 2020 to Nov. 3, 2021, her catalog earned 998.1 million streams. The slight increase over the most recent 18-month period can be partially chalked up to the success of “Hold Me Closer” with Elton John (more on that in a minute), which helped boost her recent overall streaming total following its August 2022 release.
Meanwhile, Spears’ album sales over the past year-and-a-half have dropped compared to the sales from the preceding year-and-a-half — 96,000 albums sold from Nov. 4, 2021 to May 4, 2023, compared to 176,000 albums sold from May 1, 2020 to Nov. 3, 2021. Contributing to the higher sales in 2020? Vinyl releases: Spears charted five projects on Vinyl Albums that year but has not appeared on that chart since November 2020.
“Hold Me Closer” has (not surprisingly) been her biggest hit of the past year.
The Elton John collaboration — which combined pieces of the pop legend’s songs “Tiny Dancer,” “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” and “The One” — not only served as Spears’ first song since the end of her conservatorship, but also her first song to hit the Hot 100 since 2016. “Hold Me Closer” debuted at No. 6 on the Hot 100 following its release, becoming Spears’ 14th top 10 hit on the chart, and also reached the top of the Adult Top 40 and the Hot Dance/Electronic Songs charts.
Over the past year, “Hold Me Closer” has been Spears’ most-streamed song, with 124.6 million U.S. on-demand streams in addition to 111,000 downloads sold, according to Luminate. It’s also been by far her most ubiquitous track on radio over the past 12 months: its 418,000 plays on terrestrial and satellite radio in the U.S. since its release is more than four times as many spins as any other Spears track. Time will tell how “Hold Me Closer” ages within Spears’ single catalog, but based on the early returns, its commercial appeal has proven durable.
“Toxic” has turned into one of her biggest hits…
From a charts perspective, “Toxic” was not one of Spears’ biggest hits upon its 2003 release: the In The Zone single peaked at No. 9 on the Hot 100 in 2004, a strong showing that would still be outdone by singles like “Gimme More,” “Womanizer” and “Circus” in the coming years. Yet “Toxic” has turned into one of the most consistent performers from the first decade of Spears’ singles discography in recent years — and, aside from “Hold Me Closer,” was her biggest streaming and radio hit of the past year.
“Toxic” earned 99.5 million streams over the past 12 months, according to Luminate, eclipsing higher-charting songs like “…Baby One More Time” (59 million streams) and “Gimme More” (52.2 million streams). The song also scored 92,000 radio plays over that period, compared to 68,000 for “…Baby” and 56,000 for “Oops!…I Did It Again.”
…And it's helping boost In The Zone.
Spears’ fourth album is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2023 and is certainly benefiting from continued interest in “Toxic.” Although albums like 2000’s Oops!… I Did It Again and 2001’s Britney bowed with bigger album sales near the turn of the century, In The Zone was actually Spears’ best-performing full-length in equivalent album units earned over the past year, narrowly edging out Circus.
Both albums earned roughly 96,000 equivalent album units over the past 12 months (with In The Zone earning a slightly greater total), followed by …Baby One More Time (85,000), Oops!… I Did It Again (80,000) and Blackout (67,000).
“Toxic Pony” transcended TikTok virality.
In 2021, twin brothers Michael and Lucas Fernandes-Pense, better known as Altégo, mashed up Spears’ “Toxic” with Ginuwine’s sex-jam smash “Pony,” and proceeded to watch the combination take off on TikTok in 2022. The remix wasn’t just a short online flare-up, either: the song was officially released by Sony, and Altégo helped Spears (who was also credited on the mashup, along with Ginuwine) crack the Hot R&B Songs chart for the first time in her career.
To date, “Toxic Pony” has earned an impressive 33.9 million streams, along with 11,000 downloads. Even when Spears isn’t involved with the release of a single, her voice is carrying — and racking up millions of plays.