I love music. I mean, I really love it. I’m moved by it and cannot imagine my life without it. That’s why watching Justina Miles’ ASL performance of Rihanna’s halftime show is everything I love about music. She speaks to how music can touch your soul and is a core element of the human condition.
Justina Miles is a deaf performer who is the first deaf woman to be asked to perform the halftime show. She embodies the essence of Rihanna’s tracks and her energetic, soulful and emotive performance is truly touching. The music flows through her to connect with millions of people who may have been excluded from the halftime show entirely without her work…and no one should be excluded from enjoying Rihanna.
Unlike reading subtitles, Miles is performing the tracks as much as Rhianna. She is tasked with portraying the emotion behind the lyrics and completely embodying each word and emotional nuance. Her body needs to move from the high octane mean mug fest Bitch Better have My Money to the deeply emotional and inspirational Diamonds. The emotion of the track, and the crowd, runs through Miles in a way that is immediately compelling, but also deeply personal. You feel like you are right there jamming to the show with her. Miles’ expression is unlike any musical performance I have ever experienced.
Justina Miles’ performance is why I love music. Not only do I and Justina love Rihanna on her own, but Justina’s expression gave me an opportunity to enjoy Rihanna’s music on an entirely new level. You see, music goes straight to people’s souls. Even though Justina and I are different in a multitude of ways, we connected at this one space and time on a level that is difficult to explain. We were both letting the music travel through our souls and touch us. What’s beautiful about Miles is how she can take that experience and share that emotion and delight with others across the world.
I’m sure Justina has gotten thousands of messages praising her performance, and they are all warranted. However, what she has given people goes so much deeper. Miles’ highly emotional and personal performance is not only immensely generous, but also art in and of itself. Her performance touched me in ways Rihanna’s music alone never could. I mean, I have already watched Miles’ performance like 10 times and I’m sure I will keep watching it for years to come. I cannot thank Miles enough for what she has given me and millions of people across the world. She has given us the gift of music.
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