Ingrid Michaelson on Using Sign Language in Her ‘Hell No’ Video

After watching the TONYs, she got an idea to do a music video with deaf and hard-of-hearing actors.

By Brian Ives

Back in April, Ingrid Michaelson debuted her new video for “Hell No”. The clip was unique in that it was shot by Michaelson herself via Snapchat, using a variety of filters.

But she’s just revisited that song with a brand new video, in collaboration with the Deaf West Theatre; the new clip features the Theatre actors signing the song’s lyrics in American Sign Language, and Michaelson signing a bit herself.

Micahelson tells Radio.com that she got the idea for the video just a few weeks ago, after seeing the Deaf West Theater Company’s Spring Awakening cast perform on the TONY Awards.

“There were deaf and hard of hearing actors on stage using  American Sign Language, built into their choreography. It was really interesting and beautiful. I thought, ‘What a cool thing to meld with pop music,’ and I went online and I looked up ‘ASL,’ and there were a lot of fan made music videos [in ASL], but there didn’t seem to be many videos made by the actual artists.  I thought it would be nice to do something really simple sand really elegant showcasing ASL, so I reached out to Michael Arden, who was the director of that performance, so he got six of the actors to come in for a couple of days, and we worked on the interpretation, and then we shot for six or seven hours in Brooklyn. It was a really interesting experience for me.”

She says that the fan reaction has been positive, although some are confused about whether or not deaf or hard of hearing people actually enjoy music.

“That’s a totally understandable question to ask, but deaf and hard of hearing people love lyrics, and rhythm, and they feel the bass. There’s a whole community of people who the music world doesn’t realize is interested. I thought it would be a nice way to bring attention to them.”

Michaelson admits that she doesn’t know sign language, but learned some for the video. “I learned a bit. It’s hard because it’s not a direct translation. What you’re signing isn’t exactly the words, it’s more trying to get across what the sentence is saying. So, when you’re doing it, you’re not necessarily matching your hands with the words. I had to disengage the lyrics from what I was signing. It’s like patting your head and rubbing your belly. It must take so much time to be fluent in ASL.”

“Hell No” is one of the songs from her upcoming album, which will be out next month. “The record’s called It Doesn’t Have to Make Sense, and that’s something that I kind of figured out last year. I lost my mother, and I had a lot of changes in my life, and I was trying to kind of make sense of everything. Once I let go of that idea, life got a little bit easier. There was a lot of that on the record. It’s a pretty important record to me. I’m excited to have it out in the world.”

It Doesn’t Have to Make Sense is due out August 26.

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