Earlier this month, Netflix released We the People, a music and animation series that joins a range of civics-related subjects into short episodes. Everyone from H.E.R to Lin-Manuel Miranda to Adam Lambert got involved in the project, which is aimed at empowering and educating younger Americans about the daily decisions that go into our democracy. Netflix has generously published the first three episodes on YouTube, which we’ve embedded below. You’ll need to stream the others to get the full music-and-images effect, but we’ve included links to each song on Spotify, along with what stood out to us in each of the 10 episodes.
1. Active Citizenship
H.E.R.’s song “Change” implores young people to get involved by writing letters to elected officials, volunteering their time, and protesting peacefully for change. “It’s up to us to make these changes and to empower the youth,” she told Billboard. “So, as we grow, as we learn, we teach. And in that, I think will make a huge difference.”
Great lyric: “Information’s all around /Go out and vote ’cause I know it counts / Pound the pavement and act now / Make a statement and say it proud.”
2. The Bill of Rights
It might be tough to set the Bill of Rights to music – after all, it deals with some serious concepts, from freedom of assembly to due process and excessive bail. The answer is to get it into the hands of writers who can say a lot with very few words, such as the composers behind Frozen. Then, hand over that material to pop star Adam Lambert. The result is “These Are Your Rights.”
Relevant lyric: “These are your rights / Learn what they are / They may not be perfect but they’ve worked so far / In a world that’s changing every day / We gotta keep up the fight.”
Cordae drew a tough assignment. But with the help of a cartoon cat, he deftly spells out the necessity of contributing our fair share for the benefit of our fellow citizens. “I feel as though when you’re in such a blessed position, it’s important to pay that forward to be a blessing to others,” he said. “It’s especially important to me to invest in our youth and the future. Young people are the future of our society and the world, so we must do all we can to ensure they are properly positioned to succeed.”
Best lyric: “So you gotta vote, bruh, and it’s super beneficial / ‘Cause you have a say in who’s your local officials/And they decide on how to slice the pie / And how to spend the budget to help the general public.”
4. The Three Branches of Government
Lin-Manuel Miranda, Daveed Diggs, et al.
Lin-Manuel Miranda, Daveed Diggs, Brittany Howard, and others lay out a musical lesson about checks and balances in our government, walking through the legislative, executive, and judicial branches. The segment with the singing Supremes is worth the price of admission alone.
Key lyric: “It goes check, check to stay balanced / Not just one, we bring three talents / The powers? Got to keep em separated / That’s the motto, we made it.”
5. The First Amendment
Americana icon Brandi Carlile brings her guitar-and-vocal style to encourage us to speak our minds. It’s an optimistic and unifying message, one that has stood – and hopefully, will continue to –stand the test of time.
Inspiring lyric: “There’s a light that shines in the darkness / Let nothing be hidden away / For the power belongs to the people / When there’s truth in the words that we say.”
6. Federal vs. State Power
What’s the difference between the powers of the federal government and those of the state? Who signs treaties and who’s in charge of elections? KYLE’s “Link Up” brings a smooth jam injected with some clever guitar to explain that glorious separation – some might say tension – between our central government and those of the states.
Cleverest lyric: “But somebody’s gotta run this thing / And give us a leader through fair election / And keep Utah from invadin’ Texas.”
The song “American Citizen” is fantastic on its own. But when paired with the animation of dozens of U.S. citizens who were born in other countries – including well-known citizens such as Sofia Vergara, Steven Chen, Anousheh Ansari and Padma Lakshmi – it becomes a powerful American anthem.
Happiest lyric: “We the people come from all over the world / We believe that there’s nowhere better / We are strong when we stand together / And right now in a small-town courthouse, history is being made / There’s freedom welling up in someone’s eyes / ‘Cause their dream is being realized.”
8. The Courts
Oh, how we wish we could show you the animation for this one! As Oscar nominee Andra Day’s “All Rise” weaves together many of the most impactful court cases in our history, images and text appear on screen that explain exactly why they’re landmark cases. Taken together, it’s a story of steady progress, seen through the lens of our judicial system.
Most profound lyric: “The system we share is supposed to be fair / Criminal or a civil affair / Appellate or supreme, the court meets the need.”
9. We The People
Janelle Monaé’s “Stronger” is just that – strong. A song about the historic struggle for justice, equality, and unity has to be. It’s a reminder that progress in the United States isn’t even and neat – it’s messy and raucous and met with as many setbacks as successes. But this inspiring, reggae-infused song reminds us that the American story is, and always has been, one of progress.
Powerful lyric: “Some of my friends taught me how to dream / Some of my friends taught me how to fight / Even those times when we don’t agree / We know we all tryna slay the same giant / We don’t want the life without the liberty.”
10. The Miracles of Morning
Amanda Gorman, the young poet who stepped into the national spotlight on Jan. 20 closes out We The People. It’s the only spoken-word piece in the series, with gentle music behind her voice. The episode – and We The People – ends with the poet walking out onto the Capitol steps in that unmistakable yellow coat on Inauguration Day. “The Miracles of Morning” reminds us of how solidarity, perseverance, and power can emerge from division, suffering, and loss.
Enduring lyric: “Do not ignore the pain. Give it purpose. Use it.”