My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Single Review: Phil Vassar – ‘Bobbi With an I’

philvassarSooner or later, the subject of cross-dressing as a lifestyle was bound to make it into a country song.  I thought it would be another 20 years before we heard a mainstream country music single about a transsexual.  And I didn’t expect it to come from the squeaky clean Phil Vassar when it did arrive.  It’s the lead single from Phil’s upcoming fifth studio album, and the song impacts radio this week, having already debuted at #52.

Bobby is an all-American boy: linebacker on the football team and he can bench-press 335 pounds.  Then one weekend, down at the local bar, he walks in wearing a pink party dress and sporting golden curls.   The story continues as Bobby goes back to his day job on Monday – driving a tow truck.  He’s been known to knock a few teeth out, so if you see a big burly wrecker driver in a sundress, don’t ask him for a beauty tip.  (I think I saw this guy on that new Operation Repo show, but he was calling himself Sonya.)

All the while, Vassar takes this from a novelty tune and turns it up just a notch.  ‘You better watch how much you drink/He might look better than you think/If it’s a big bald girl with the platinum curls/Hey then don’t be surprised/That’s just Bobby with an I’.  And a new man, er, woman is born.  Eventually – probably to avoid trips to the dentist – everybody just seems to accept Bobbi.

The controvery is masked behind genuine humor in this toe-tapper.  And I think it may take repeated listens to fully understand all the action that’s happening here, so I smell a first-rate music video to accompany it.    Until then, enjoy what I consider one of the best radio singles so far this year from one of country music’s most engaging songwriters.

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Listen to Phil Vassar – ‘Bobby With An I’ on his MySpace.

Buy the single from iTunes or Amazon.

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13 responses to “Single Review: Phil Vassar – ‘Bobbi With an I’

  1. Razor X May 20, 2009 at 1:35 pm

    Actually, the cross-dressing theme has been covered before. Moe Bandy and Joe Stampley had a hit with a novelty tune called “Where’s The Dress” sometime around 1983 or 1984. As for “Bobbie with an I”, I don’t like it at all.

  2. joslyn May 22, 2009 at 3:13 am

    go back further to kinks and lola and a couple others from that time frame cross dressing and transgenders and transvestites have been portrayed in songs for a long time. and i thin phil did an amazing job with this song i hope continues to go far with his career. and i can see him becoming an activist for the rights of cross dressers and transgenders

    go Phil

  3. Leslie May 25, 2009 at 6:34 am

    What to think about this song? I’m trying to figure out what the hell Phil Vasser and his record company had in mind. It cuts to the core of who listens to country music on radio.

    If Bobbi walked into most small town bars in America I don’t think they’d be saying “oh, that’s just Bobbi with an I.” Bobbi would be uncomfortable and so would the patrons–in fact, really, it’s unrealistic. Bobbi just wouldn’t go there.

    Kind’a reminds me of the episodes of the Sopranos on HBO where Bobby with a Y ultimately ended up very unceremoniously dead. I’m not saying I approve of that and I’m not saying that Bobbi with an I should be dark and go in that direction. I’m just saying that Phil’s take on this is a fantasy in the “average” American small town. We’re fairly tolerant and we wouldn’t necessarily give Bobbi any trouble, but the kind of acceptance that Phil puts forth in this song?? Not hardly.

    So, how to think about or evaluate this song? Why would Phil do this? Obviously, he and his record company’s take on things is that America is ready to make this a hit. I beg to differ.

    If I were a radio programmer, feeling as I do about the “average” country music listener, I’d avoid it like the plaque. I’ve been told that “radio” doesn’t want to play anything that might make the listener reach for the dial and change the channel–i.e., anything “controversial.” Surely, this song is going to turn a lot of folks off. For instance, what home-schooler wants their kids listening to this song?

    Why even take this chance? Is this a protest song designed to make us more tolerant? Is Phil out to educate us? Don’t think so. Man I think it’s a boneheaded career decision.

    Is it a “good” song? Well, it’s typical Phil Vasser tight songcrafting with a great melody. We know exactly what’s going on. The images and language are catchy, inventive, and fresh. The melody is cool. The Beach Boys reference and vocal tricks Phil engages in are quite smart and ear-pleasing. But, why waste all this undeniable songwriting talent on this yuck-inducing topic? I guess they thought it was funny, light and catchy summer fair. I think they’re way wrong.

  4. Leslie May 25, 2009 at 7:36 am

    You know, I’ve been thinking about this some more. If you are conservative, you are going to be offended by this song and it’s blasé attitude about a lifestyle you find offputting and “weird.”

    If you are liberal, you are going to be offended at Phil Vasser laughing at the expense of individuals who find meaningful self-expression in cross-dressing.

    So–Phil will manage to piss off pretty much everybody with this song.

    Why?

  5. Razor X May 25, 2009 at 9:57 am

    If you are conservative, you are going to be offended by this song and it’s blasé attitude about a lifestyle you find offputting and “weird.”

    I don’t think so. I don’t find the song offensive at all; it simply isn’t a very good song.

    If Bobbi walked into most small town bars in America I don’t think they’d be saying “oh, that’s just Bobbi with an I.” Bobbi would be uncomfortable and so would the patrons–in fact, really, it’s unrealistic. Bobbi just wouldn’t go there.

    And therein lies the single biggest weakness in this song. It just isn’t credible that a good ol’ boy like Bobby would show up in his local bar amongst all his friends in full drag on the weekends. He’d be more likely to go someplace else where nobody knew him or where other likeminded souls hang out.

    • Occasional Hope May 25, 2009 at 10:11 am

      Isn’t the implication that Bobby will beat them up if they don’t accept him?

      I agree it’s not a good song – I have no objection to the subject, but imo it’s not very well written or interesting lyrically, and it’s really over-produced to boot. But I’ve never really been much of a Phil Vassar fan – his songs tend to have more gloss than substance for me.

  6. Razor X May 25, 2009 at 12:44 pm

    Isn’t the implication that Bobby will beat them up if they don’t accept him?

    Yes, but it still doesn’t make sense to me that Bobby would cross-dress in his local in front of all his friends, and only on weekends to boot. I’d imagine that someone who was into that sort of thing would find somewhere else to hang out when he wanted to “dress up”.

    • Occasional Hope May 25, 2009 at 1:55 pm

      I guess so – and if Bobby’s a truck driver you’d think he could do it while away from home too. But I suppose Phil doesn’t have a song then.

  7. J.R. Journey May 25, 2009 at 2:16 pm

    I think you guys are dissecting the song too much. Yes, the ‘storyline’ as it is, has holes in it. But it’s a novelty song – which to me means it doesn’t have to follow all the protocol. Still, I think Phil has crafted a fun, engaging song – and characterized his protagonist pretty well. The production is bound to turn some people off. However, if you’re a fan of Phil’s music, this tune isn’t really a stretch from any other up-tempo song (which most of his songs are) in his repertoire. He’s always went in for heavy-handed production and his debut album – still one of my favorites – is full of autotuning and reverb, but personally, I like it.

  8. Pingback: Phil Vassar "Bobbi with an I" | Listen to "Bobbi With an I" and read the review | The Georgia Jukebox

  9. Joanna May 30, 2009 at 2:38 pm

    People are praising Phil for this song, but in my opinion his is making fun of the trangenered community. If you go to his website, you will find a link in the bottom left corner that asks “Do you know a Bobbi with an I?” Once you get there read his speciaal little message at the top where he calls people who do this idiots. It doesn’t matter that he supports charity, he has shown his true colors with this song and with that link. As i said on his website, I will not be buying any of his music. I did listen to this, it had a catchy tune to it…..but he is making fun of Bobbi.
    Country Music has always been about being who you are and not worrying about others…..That is what Bobbi is doing in the song, but Phil thinks he needs to ridicule people like Bobbi.
    you may not like someone like Bobbi, but if you have ever been picked on, laughed at, ridicule in any way…then you know that his actions show his true personality.

    I now know his producer is Universal South and I will extend my not purchasing his music to any artist who records for Universal South.

    This man owes a huge appology to the Transgendered Community!!!

    • Occasional Hope May 30, 2009 at 4:35 pm

      I don’t actually think the song is about a transgendered person at all, Joanna, but a transvestite.

  10. stephanie rogers August 7, 2009 at 8:54 pm

    This song is not meant to affend anyone..its all in fun…have a sense of humor for god sakes…its about a dude wanting free beer…end of story…and as for Phil not having any substance…his voice makes for that..he could sing the phone book!

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