Claudia Hoyser has a honey-thick country music voice with a Southern drawl, even though she hails from Western New York state. She sounds familiar and friendly, like someone you’ve heard before but can’t remember exactly when or where. She earned her reputation as an artist performing cover songs (and originals—she’s penned more than 200 tunes over the past four years) while hosting more than 125 episodes of her Facebook music series “Hoyser Country Monday”. It has over 800,000 weekly viewers and has accumulated more than 120 million streams in the process. Hoyser’s songs have been featured in international movies and national advertising campaigns, and she’s just released her first full-length album, Red Light’s Turning Green.
Hoyser affects a bad girl persona, or more precisely, the kind of girl attracted to a bad boy. She sings about this desire most explicitly on “Outlaw”, with the simple chorus “Love me like an outlaw”, but this sensibility colors all the songs on the new album. Hoyser doesn’t want to be an outlaw or even want to love an outlaw; she just wants someone who will love her like an outlaw, whatever that means. Her simile hides more than it reveals. She enjoys the thrill of danger, but not the consequences, so she keeps things vague and ambiguous.
The same mindset governs the best songs, such as “Wicked” and “Red Light’s Turning Green”. When Hoyser achingly croons about being “Wicked”, she’s only describing her heartbreak. She’s not about to do anything about it. One can imagine someone like Miranda Lambert (whose voice shares a similar, throaty timbre as Hoyser’s) using this as an excuse to lash out. Hoyser stews about the danger. However, this vulnerability is what makes the song compelling.
So, when she begins “Red Light’s Turning Green” with the line “I know I have a choice”, there’s an edge to it. The metaphor works because she equates the driving symbolism with having a “struggle in the back seat”. It’s subtly sexual. Hoyser’s voice is sultry and soft that rises in volume and pitch as she gets excited. As in the two previously mentioned tracks, the narrator seems more victim of circumstances than an instigator, but she’s not exactly innocent.
That’s clearest in the cleverly worded drinking song, “Didn’t Do the Pouring”. Hoyser celebrates rather than atones for the fact that maybe “she drinks too much”. Then she takes her confession sideways and notes that it’s always someone else providing her with alcohol. Being drunk is not her fault. Hoyser doesn’t condemn or condone the song’s narrator; she just paints the picture and lets the listener judge. One might give her a presumption of innocence because the light is always about to change in life.
In some jurisdictions, traffic lights don’t transform immediately from red to green, but a flashing yellow comes up first to alert the driver to get ready to go. Hoyser’s protagonists could use such a signal. They don’t quite seem prepared to go even though they don’t want to stay where they are.