In music, pop is short for "popular," but the abbreviated term for the genre evokes the image of a bubble, something fragile not meant to last. So when a pop star such as Britney Spears puts in more than 12 years and consistently stays on top of the charts, some respect must be paid.
That said, we'd be hard-pressed to find an artist who has had as many personal ups and downs in the past dozen years, which makes the fact that six of Spears' seven albums, including this year's "Femme Fatale," debuted at No. 1 all the more impressive.
As the pop princess continues her latest concert tour, we look at 12 steps in Spears' career, representing the ups and downs of a life lived in the white-hot glare of the public eye.
1. (1999) An 18-year-old Spears drops " Baby One More Time." The title track's video features Brit in a midriff-baring Catholic schoolgirl outfit, turning the term "pop tart" into more than a breakfast food and putting her on the radar of parents' groups.
2. (2000) Second album, "Oops! I Did It Again," released. While performing at the MTV Video Music Awards, Britney strips away her black pantsuit (and her good-girl image) to reveal a flesh-colored bodysuit and sequin-covered undies. Also admits she's dating Justin Timberlake.
3. (2001) "Britney," album No. 3. At the VMAs, a barely dressed Brit decides to wear an albino snake, incurring the wrath of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
4. (2002) Forbes names her the most powerful celebrity. Timberlake releases a video for the single "Cry Me a River," which alludes to his earlier breakup with Spears.
5. (2003) Album No. 4, "In the Zone." Also, The Kiss: VMAs. Madonna. A cover version of "Like a Virgin." A dash of Christina Aguilera.
6. (2004) Marries childhood friend Jason Alexander. The marriage is annulled hours afterward. She would later marry backup dancer Kevin "K-Fed" Federline.
7. (2005) Has her first child, Sean Preston. She takes some heat for driving a car with her son in her lap instead of a car seat.
8. (2006) Her second child, Jayden James, is born. Divorces K-Fed.
9. (2007) "Blackout," her fifth album, is the first not to hit No. 1 (it tops out at No. 2). Brit shaves her head. Does a stint in rehab. At the VMAs, Spears turns in a stunningly bad performance. (And using a sledgehammer to make the point that it's difficult to stay on top, as Britney is hitting her nadir, Amy Winehouse is beginning her ascendance in the United States after successful debut performances in New York City).
10. (2008) Brit is eventually placed under conservatorship of her father. Despite all the travails, her sixth album, "Circus," hits No 1. She also makes a successful cameo on the TV show "How I Met Your Mother."
11. (2009) Releases an iPhone app, "It's Britney!"
12. (2010-present) The it-show of the moment, "Glee," does a Britney Spears-themed episode, which becomes one of its highest rated ever. By 2011, the music landscape is filled with singers who clearly have been cribbing from the Britney playbook. "Femme Fatale" debuts at No. 1.