Snakes, Stripteases and Cage Dancing: See 12 of Britney Spears' Most Iconic Performances Through the Years

It's nearly impossible to pick just 12, but we've rounded up some of the Princess of Pop's most iconic performances from the past two decades in honor of her 41st birthday on Dec. 2

01 of 12

'Baby One More Time'

Britney Spears - ...Baby One More Time
Britney Spears

In 1998, a 16-year-old girl from Louisiana named Britney Spears released her debut music video, "Baby One More Time," which cracked open the world of pop music and ushered in a futuristic new era.

Those who knew her from her three-year stint on The Mickey Mouse Club — which she starred on alongside future beau Justin Timberlake as well as Ryan Gosling and Christina Aguilera — would be hard-pressed to recognize the soulful girl belting out Chaka Khan's "I Feel for You" in this sultry teenager strutting down the hallway of her high school and doing backflips in a pink sports bra.

"I was praying every night," she told Rolling Stone about releasing the song. "'God, please, help them play it on just my radio station at home.' And then they did. Then all of a sudden, it's playing on all the big radio stations in New York. And everything just started happening for me, and I was just like, wow, you know?"

02 of 12

'(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction'

Britney Spears
Kevin Mazur/WireImage; Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic; Kevin Mazur/WireImage

"Wow" was the impression Britney trailed behind her like a comet as she skyrocketed to a new level of superstardom toward the end of the millennium.

Two years after ... Baby One More Time, Britney stole the show at the 2000 MTV Video Music Awards when she stripped down from a glittering black tuxedo into a nude sequin look. Fans couldn't get enough of her "real voice" as she gave a throaty, almost masculine rendition of "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," before transitioning to "Oops!...I Did It Again."

03 of 12

Super Bowl XXXV

Justin Timberlake, Steven Tyler, and Britney Spears on stage during MTV's Superbowl halftime show
Scott Gries/ImageDirect

It may come as a shock that Britney has never headlined her own Super Bowl Halftime Show — but she did make a memorable cameo on the 2001 stage during "The Kings of Rock and Pop" show alongside Aerosmith, 'NSYNC, Nelly and Mary J. Blige.

04 of 12

'I'm a Slave 4 U'

BRITNEY SPEARS COMES OUT WITH A SNAKE
Getty

Britney's 2001 VMAs performance is a jewel in the Princess of Pop's crown. Beyond her own memorable shows, this particular performance of "I'm a Slave 4 U" ranks as one of the most iconic pop performances of all time. The jungle-themed act saw Spears drape a python around her neck as she shimmied her way across the stage, charming the reptile and audience alike.

05 of 12

'The Way You Make Me Feel'

Michael Jackson performs with Britney Spears during the Michael Jackson '30th Anniversary Celebration
Frank Micelotta/Getty Images

The way seeing Britney and Michael Jackson on stage together makes us feel is something that can only be described by the guttural cry Jackson utters at 4:54. On the King of Pop's 30th Anniversary Special in 2001, Britney joined him for a duet of "The Way You Make Me Feel," which saw her strutting back and forth across the stage as he chased her around.

06 of 12

Dream Within a Dream Tour

Britney Spears Live from Las Vegas - Baby One More Time

Britney gyrated under a torrential downpour in a plastic cowboy hat so that Hilary Duff could give us "Come Clean" a few years later. Spears' Dream Within a Dream Tour, which ran from 2001 to 2002, saw her getting soaked as she threw what looked like the world's most delightful dance party on a raised platform and dangled from wires in midair.

07 of 12

'I'm Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman'

Britney Spears performs at the 29th Annual American Music Awards
KMazur/WireImage

The 2002 American Music Awards gave us one of Britney's most stripped-down sets as she sang her coming-of-age classic, "I'm Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman."

Eschewing the lights, backup dancers and costume changes typical to her performances, Britney performed the emotional ballad in a floaty, angelic dress with a piano accompaniment as scenes from Crossroads, her silver screen debut, flashed on the screen behind her.

08 of 12

'Like a Virgin'

Britney Spears, Madonna
Chris Polk/FilmMagic

"Breaking the Internet" may not have been a thing yet, but if it had been, Madonna kissing Britney (and Christina Aguilera, too) at the 2003 MTV VMAs would have done it. The kiss took over tabloids for weeks. In the performance, the trio took the stage to sing a medley of Madge's "Like A Virgin/Hollywood," in which Madonna dressed as a groom while the pop stars were her brides.

09 of 12

'Toxic'

Britney Spears - Toxic
ABC

Decades before TikTok existed, days were spent memorizing Britney's choreography in order to recreate some of her most iconic moves. During her intimate 2003 ABC special, Britney Spears: In The Zone, she gave a particularly high-voltage performance of "Toxic," decked out in full patent leather as she was blindfolded and spun around on a barrel of toxic waste.

10 of 12

'Breathe on Me'

Britney Spears "Breathe On Me"
ABC

Stripping off her red leather bustier, Britney briefly gave the illusion of being topless as she transitioned into "Breathe On Me" during the ABC special. The performance was one of her edgiest and most provocative — it simulated an orgy of sorts, with dancers writhing around her and a brief simulated lap dance.

11 of 12

'Piece of Me'

Britney Spears kicks off her Circus Tour at the New Orleans
Andrew Theodorakis/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images

"Piece of Me" — in which Britney claps back at the media for its portrayals of her — was famously part of her Circus tour in 2009.

Dancing within the golden cage she's been trapped inside, she sang about being "Miss American Dream since I was 17" and the judgement that's come with it.

"I'm Miss bad media karma / Another day another drama / Guess I can't see no harm / In working and being a mama," she sang with an eye roll, referencing sons Preston and Jayden, whom she welcomed with then-husband Kevin Federline in 2005 and 2006, respectively.

12 of 12

2016 Billboard Music Awards

Britney Spears performs onstage during the 2016 Billboard Music Awards
Kevin Winter/Getty Images; JB Lacroix/WireImage (2); Jeff Kravitz/BBMA2016/FilmMagic

Ahead of being honored with the Millennium Award at the 2016 Billboard Music Awards, Britney performed a medley of some of her greatest hits in an ultra high-energy set, in which she graced the audience with one of her signature costume reveals.

The hit mix started off with "Work B—," before moving into "Womanizer." The set saw Britney straddling an enormous guitar while singing "I Love Rock 'n' Roll," dancing around a pole during "I'm a Slave 4 U" and ending on "Toxic."

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