In the wake of her tragic passing, we look back on the influential and unique career of Julee Cruise
This piece was originally published in 2017:
It’s not unusual for designers to allude to the enduring influence of David Lynch – in the past, the likes of Raf Simons, Miuccia Prada, and Kenzo’s Carol Lim and Humberto Leon have all shown sartorial nods to the surrealist auteur. An example of this is Creatures of the Wind’s Shane Gabier and Christopher Peters, whose SS17 show was soundtracked by Julee Cruise, an early Lynch collaborator and singer of the hauntingly beautiful Twin Peaks theme song “Falling”. Against the fitting backdrop of Manhattan’s cavernous Masonic Hall, Cruise performed three songs (“Rockin’ Back Inside My Heart”, “The World Spins”, and “Mysteries of Love”) as models glided down the runway in the designers’ 50s rock-inspired collection
Unsurprisingly, the evocative performance led to tears on the front row and served as a timely reminder of Cruise’s brilliance before she returned to our screens for Twin Peaks’ long-awaited third season. It may have been 25 years since the show made its debut, but the ongoing influence of Cruise’s collaborations with Lynch and composer Angelo Badalamenti continues to bleed into the work of modern musicians including Bat for Lashes, Beach House, and, of course, Lana Del Rey.
It’s also important to acknowledge Cruise’s lengthy post-Lynch career, although scores of die-hard Lynch fans often bemoan the departure from her broody, atmospheric beginnings. Her earliest work may hold the most cultural resonance, but we dug through Cruise’s musical archive to bring you five musical gems you may not have heard.
I FLOAT ALONE
Cruise’s Broadway beginnings are well-documented, but her career took an unexpected turn when she established a close collaborative relationship with David Lynch and composer Angelo Badalamenti in the latter half of the 1980s beginning with Blue Velvet. The resulting debut album, 1989’s Floating Into The Night, was met with rapturous critical acclaim and is often hailed as one of the most influential records in modern music.
It’s not hard to see why – the combination of Cruise’s expressive, damaged vocals, Lynch’s affecting lyrics, and Badalamenti’s lush, atmospheric soundscapes is instantly beguiling and undeniably distinctive. Cruise’s debut album may her best work – “Falling” is still often credited as her most impressive song, but there are a series of incredible deep cuts nestled later on in the record. Arguably the finest is “I Float Alone”, a beautiful, melancholy epic whose lyrics depict the lasting wounds of love lost.
MOVIN’ IN ON YOU
Cruise kept a low profile for several years following the critical success of her debut, finally re-emerging in 1993 to deliver the long-awaited follow-up, The Voice of Love. She once again teamed up with Lynch and Badalamenti to recreate their distinctive blend of musical magic. As a result, the album can be seen as the thematic sequel to Cruise’s debut and incorporates the same combination of expressive vocals and orchestral soundscapes.
The Voice of Love is rarely celebrated to the same extent as its predecessor, but the same dreamy synths and unmistakeable jazz references permeate a series of the record’s highlights, many of which soundtracked iconic Twin Peaks moments. “Movin’ In On You” is arguably an album highlight largely because it eschews the various trademarks of Cruise’s sonic blueprint – the repetitive hook and dreamy, saccharine vocals seem to more heavily reference 60s girl groups than Lynchian heroines.
SLOW HOT WIND
Following the release of The Voice of Love, Cruise took a lengthy hiatus, which eventually extended to almost a decade. When she finally re-appeared in 2002, she delivered the unexpected album The Art of Being A Girl, her first to feature no involvement from either Lynch or Badalamenti. The absence of their influence is obvious: if anything, the album proves that Cruise was seamlessly playing a role in her first two albums, much to the disappointment of die-hard Lynch fans.
Gone are the atmospheric synths and wounded vocals, replaced instead by the influence of cabaret and bossa nova. The album is undeniably less cohesive than its predecessors, but there are still a handful of highlights; ‘Slow Hot Wind’ is a sultry mid-tempo siren call punctuated by hypnotic rhythms and the occasional twang of electric guitar.
Over the last 15 years Cruise has continued to collaborate to different extents: she became an honorary member of the B-52s for a few years in the 1990s, and later created an album, 2011’s My Secret Life, with DJ Dmitry of Deee-Lite. The results are scattered and very different to the music of her early years, although one exception comes in the form of “Say Goodbye”, a concise yet utterly infectious track originally featured on Khan’s 2012 album No Comprendo.
The song’s most famous iteration is the deep and hypnotic ‘She’s Homeless’ remix by Losoul, a low-key house classic – but the original arguably packs a bigger punch. Cruise’s vocals sound more assured than ever, although a signature touch of melancholia can be found in the spoken-word bridge: “Look at me / I’m a walking tragedy / Just an empty shell of the girl I used to be.”
Incidentally, 2016 looks to be the year that Cruise once again returns to leave her mark on the music industry. Her reprisal of her Twin Peaks role has once again captured the attention of the show’s dedicated fans, while her appearance at Creatures of the Wind has sparked a wave of nostalgia within the fashion crowd.
Luckily, her re-emergence comes shortly after the release of “Animal”, one of her most impressive recent releases. The track was written by Seattle’s King Dude and forms one half of a collaborative EP called Sing Each Other’s Songs For You – and, as the name would suggest, the B-side is Dude’s cover of Cruise’s hit “Rockin’ Back Inside My Heart”. The song plays out over a stripped-back guitar shrouded in reverb; vocally, Cruise is back on top form, indicating that this year could be the year she returns to our speakers as well as our screens.