The Art of Being a Girl, Julee Cruise's first album in over a decade, could arguably be called her first true solo release; comparing this work's trippy, witty femininity to the little-girl-lost ethereality of her albums with David Lynch and Angelo Badalamenti makes it clear that she was playing a role on Floating Into the Night and The Voice of Love as much as any of Lynch's actresses were in his films. Likewise, The Art of Being a Girl's chilled-out, lounge-inspired trip-hop is also different than her work with the B-52's and Khan, though it does owe something to Khan's sexy fusion of dance and cabaret traditions. The mix of world-weariness and fabulous theatricality on songs like "You're Staring at Me," the title track, and the album's between-song vignettes also recalls The Luv Show, Ann Magnuson's underappreciated solo jaunt. The heavy electronica influence on tracks such as "Falling in Love" may come as an unwelcome surprise to fans expecting another volume of Lynch-inspired, damaged dream pop, but Cruise is a distinctive and expressive enough singer to pull off this very different kind of material, and spookier songs like "Three Jack Swing" and "Cha Cha in the Dark" sound a bit like an update on her earlier work. Though trip-hop isn't exactly new, Cruise's take on it isn't as murky and rigid as the style became in the late '90s; songs such as "Everybody Knows," "Shine," and "Slow Hot Wind" are more inspired by bossa nova, lounge, and '60s vocal pop than Tricky or Portishead. While The Art of Being a Girl does feature a few moments that are a little too slick for their own good ("The Fire in Me," "9th Avenue Limbo"), for the most part the album finds Cruise exploring different sides of her talent with a fair degree of success. Even after ten years, her voice is still compelling and evocative, a fact her fans will appreciate even if the music surrounding it on this album isn't always a perfect match.
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares
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