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Happy Birthday, Britney! Why we're still addicted to you when we know that you're ... 28

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It’s amazing to think the Princess of Pop, who has been with us for so long, is only just entering her late twenties. I remember when she debuted in 1998 with “…Baby One More Time,” I was a 13-year-old boy allegedly into rock music, but when my younger sister bought the album and I heard “(You Drive Me) Crazy” for the first time, my facade crumbled.

Who could deny the cowbell rhythm and delirious chorus of that song in good conscience? And—late ’90s nostalgia bonus!—the video features a very young, adorable Adrian Grenier and with Sabrina the Teenage Witch, err, Clarissa, err, Melissa Joan Hart.

In the decade since then, Britters has fulfilled a lot of roles—naughty Catholic schoolgirl fantasy, Justin’s partner in dynamic denim, great dancer, one-minute wife to a high school friend, wife-ier wife to a goofball, shaved-head meltdown case, lazy dancer, two-time mother, Slave 4 us—but no matter what she does, we still pay attention to her.

I could never understand using the word “comeback” with Britney (which has been thrown around many times), because when her every move is news for over a decade, what’s there to come back from?

Sure, she’s had missteps. But her lapses are more awkward than disappointing—we’re more likely to share in her embarrassment than be disgusted by her misjudgments. Seeing her perform annually at awards shows is not unlike seeing your favorite uncle during the holidays—even when he’s moving around like he just got a colonoscopy, you couldn’t imagine celebrating without him.

There’s just something relentlessly likable about Britney, bitch. For instance, check out this clip from the movie Longshot: Britney might not even portray a convincing stewardess (and how hard can that be in a cameo?), but just seeing her is delightful. Unlike a cameo by, say, Lance Bass, who pops up at the end of this clip with a super lame pun and his trademarked “am I on camera?” facial expression.

Speaking of Spears as a stewardess, the “Toxic” video is an enduring work of genius, at least in MTV terms. She seduces and robs a random pudgy dude, writhes around with diamonds glued to her skin and commits some sort of futuristic, secret agent-styled assassination. And in “Gimme More” she plays a stripper… dancing for herself! These are reportedly all her ideas. Like she says in “Circus,” “There’s only two types of people in the world: the ones that entertain and the ones that observe.”

Happy 28th b-day Ms. Mouseke-Spears: up or down, you’re always on our radar.

More from EW.com’s Music Mix:

Susan Boyle scores year’s biggest sales week by far; Andrea Bocelli, Adam Lambert, Lady Gaga, and Rihanna sell well

Michael Jackson tops 2009 Google and Yahoo searches

Amazon gives away Gaga, Tori Amos MP3s in ‘25 Days of Free’ promotion

Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, U2: Who will be nominated for Grammys tomorrow?

Lupe Fiasco raps over Radiohead’s ‘National Anthem’

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