Britney Spears beat out money-making powerhouses Taylor Swift, Rihanna and Lady Gaga to top Forbes’ list of highest paid women in the music industry in 2012.

The ranking is significant for many Brit fans, who have been waiting for her triumphant return to the glory days of plaid skirts and No. 1 hits for what seems like a lifetime. (OK, it’s only been five years since the infamous head-shaving incident, but five years too long.)


View Photo Gallery: The pop star attracted adoring crowds on her tour this year.

Taylor Swift speaks onstage at The Grammy Nominations Concert Live! (Michael Kovac/Getty Images)

Rihanna performs during the 2012 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show in New York. (Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

Lady Gaga arrives at the Versace atelier in Milan, Italy. (Luca Bruno/AP)

Beyonce, Adele, Sade, Madonna and Shakira round out the top 10 . Nicki Minaj placed 11th and was the only female on Forbes’ hip-hop cash kings list.

The connection between the singers — besides smash hits and stage presence — seems to be beauty products and endorsements. All five women have a signature fragrance or their own line.

Swift has a profitable partnership with Covergirl; Rihanna held a brief stint as the face of Nivea; and Gaga endorsed Viva Glam by MAC in 2011.

And as Gaga and Beyonce did before her, Spears opened her music video “Hold It Against Me” with a little product placement. The New York Times reports the dating Web site plentyoffish.com paid for a cameo in the clip.