«Chop Suey» — System Of A Down: explaining the meaning behind song

«Chop Suey» — System Of A Down: explaining the meaning behind song songs

System of a Down is one of my favorite bands. I love their sound and the messages they communicate in their songs. One of my favorites is “Chop Suey!” which has some interesting lyrics that I never really understood until recently. This song is about suicide and the meaning behind it, and I think it’s something that everyone should know about. Stay tuned for my interpretation of the lyrics!

Chop suey is the immortal hit of the band System of a down, which the fan recognizes from the first second. But some people absolutely don’t understand the meaning and words of the song. System of a Down’s Chop Suey was variously explained and interpreted. The most common is about substance abuse, which is partly true. But Daron Malakian, the guitarist and co-writer, pays much attention to the chorus and claims that this song is about the people’s passing away and how they are regarded.

By the someone’s death others will judge him or herafterwards. To confirm his words, Malakian gave an example of someone dying from overdose, which is deserved because of exposing him- or herself to danger. In general, the song shows people’s inner conflict. They try to forget their past and problems, but they’re struggling a lot. From outside the person seems to be joyful and hides their true emotions, and nobody understands the self-righteous suicide and sees the problems that are inside.

The song is unusual: rhythmic explosive verses and emotional, pathetic ending. And, despite the fast tempo at the very beginning, with transitions to a repetitive, slow chorus with an appeal to divine powers, we feel all the tragedy that the song is imbued with.

The story behind the song «Chop Suey» — System Of A Down

Daron Malakian composed “Chop Suey!” in a van during a tour in support of the band’s debut album.

At that moment, Daron did not yet realize that he had composed a sketch of a future hit. Moreover, it was one of the many ideas that were floating in the guitarist’s head at that time, and which he collected in order to share with producer Rick Rubin and his bandmates when they start recording a new album.

Released as a single in 2001, it quickly became the first bands Grammy nomination remaining number one in music charts around the world. The song became the first single from their second album Toxicity. The initial title was “Suicide” but Columbia Records rebelled it. Chop Suey was released shortly before the terrorist attacks on 11th of September and some references bothered Americans. For them it was too hard to listen to the song, to think about the lyrics. In the wake of the tragedy, radio stations temporarily excluded this song from the rotation for questionable lyrics. Chop Suey came back to charts because new singles released that September lacked. The band has never had such low success in their music career.

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Rick Rubin, record producer, was working with System of a Down these years, and he described Chop Suey as a very impressive song with bizarre music. He was shocked when the vocalist Serj Tankian first sang the verse and saw no perspective in it. Sometimes strange and unusual things don’t seem to gain any success and be well-sold. The most talented musicians can work on their material and execute it on a high level. Experiments often lead to popularity when something really awkward is conveyed to be very beautiful.

With the breakout of Chop Suey the amount of sold copies of the disc Toxicity reached 200,000 in the US in its first seven days. The single was a road to success and started System Of A Down’s superstar phase. The album was propelled to No.1 in the US and elevated to arena headliners. Even 20 years later the song hasn’t lost its positons and has one billion views on YouTube and 623 million streams on Spotify.

The British magazine Metal Hammer put the track at the top of the list of the 100 greatest metal songs of the 21st century. In 2012, “Chop Suey!” already topped a similar top (only the best hard rock songs of the 21st century) from the Loudwire edition.

After Linkin Park’s “In The End” and “Numb”, “Chop Suey” is among the top three most popular alt-metal songs of the 21st century on Spotify.

What does “Chop Suey” mean?«Chop Suey» — System Of A Down: explaining the meaning behind song

“Chop Suey” is the American version of the Chinese fast food’s name “tsap sui,” made with meat or fish, bamboo, onion, rice and water chestnuts. The dish symbolizes a mixture of different emotions that the song evokes. The title is a play on words:‘suicide’ as chopped in half and became Self-right-Chop Suey-cide. There is some humor and absurd behind it but the band had to create a more “radio-friendly” title. Shavo Odadjian said that the song name reflected their musical individuality. Daron Malakian heard this word combination in his childhood while watching gangster movies. One of the characters screamed: ”We’ll make chop suey out of him!’ It meant ‘We’re gonna kill him.”

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Understanding the meaning behind song “Chop Suey”

The song begins with barely audible piece “We’re rolling suicide” refers to the original working title, “Self-Righteous Suicide. Despite changing the song title, the line saves themes of drug-abuse and self-harm.

The beginning of this song tells the story of a person trying to cover up life problems. Simple morning routine as waking up, putting on makeup, heading to the table hides real situation which needs fixing. The aggression inside destroys and a person cries for help and attention. The phrase “Wake up!” makes people open their eyes and see the reality. A very unusual and interesting moment of performance is the pauses that the soloist makes after the call “Wake up!”. Moreover, the pauses include not only a verbal stop, but at the moment of pauses, the entire musical arrangement also stops in order to actively attract the listener to the calls that sound in the song.

Nobody wants to show their weakness but all their behaviour tells another thing. “Grab a brush and put on a little make-up, hide the scars…” means that the person is going through hard times but hiding mental scars and insecurities from others. The life is seemless, so the person attempts suicide and other self-harm and then covers their scars with makeup.

Suicidal behaviour becomes an addiction and people stop caring about their lives. When someone leaves the keys at home, it means that he or she is careless or does it on purpose. Frustration and anger fill the person’s heart and affect it making give up on the life. So not returning home symbolises dying from drugs or falling down to the river. Keys give access to home and people who loses it don’t keep track of their own lifelines.

The theme of judgement passes through the song and the line “they wanted to” explains that there is no reason to beahve like that. It is repeated many times, emphasizing emotionally – a person builds his own destiny. Feelings of struggling person towards death and the afterlife won’t be truly understood. Only killing themseves is a blessing but even after passing away there will be someone who will judge the way of death.

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In the world of Christians, suicide and self-harm is a sin. Value of life is a unique thing but sometimes the choices made by someone are not always tied to this. The bridge references to the Bible, because Jesus was crucified for humanity’s sins to be forgiven. Jesus died willingly, and what System of a Down is referring is “self-righteous suicide” in the chorus.

If someone wanted to live in the world of drugs, they blindly followed their desires. The phrase “you don’t believe in my suicide” makes it clear that even from the world of drugs there is a way out and those people who really love you don’t believe until the last that this is the end. But even angels sometimes “deserve to die,” what can be said about people.

The “I cry when angels deserve to die” line symbolizes death, sadness and sorrow of others when someone dies.

The lyrics “Farther into your hands I commit my spirit ‘ is referred to Jesus’ death. The person is angry at God for bringing grief and misfortune. This lyrics assumes that Jesus was suicidal but by State. His last words were ”Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”

Psalm 31:5 says:

Into your hands I commit my spirit;

deliver me, Lord, my faithful God.

Therefore, at the thought of death, the hero of the plot turns to God. He cries and calls out to God as the father of all living things, asking why God left him. He repeats the call several times with the question that God has left him in “his eyes”, “his heart” and “his thoughts”. God is shown here as the last hope, to whom the hero gives “his spirit”, that is, his soul.

The “Why have you forsaken me” part shows the resentment from religion.

Psalm 22, Matthew 27:46 says:

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Why are you so far from saving me,

so far from my cries of anguish?

The people were saved through Christ’s pain. The song questions the forgiveness of God and religion, what are the inevitable and serious sins that can’t be forgiven.

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  1. Efren

    Great! This is one of my favorite metal songs. The lyrics are very difficult to understand. I think it may be able to be interpreted in many different ways.

    The band themselves offer one possible interpretation. They say it’s about the responses we make when someone dies? As a Catholic and someone very interested in theology, the song has always been a source of fascination to me.

    “I don’t think you trust…in my…self-righteous suicide…I…cry…when angels deserve to die.” These are very profound and moving verses, especially from a metal song. I have struggled with these lyrics ever since they came out. At first it seems to be mocking religion. In my opinion it might come across as impious to some. However, it is just art. Perhaps, being the style of music it is, being a bit over dramatic and emotional is expected.

    “In your heart forsaken me.” This is a bit extreme if we are to apply it to Christ’s passion and death on the cross. In theology and tradition, we receive the revelation about Christ. He did die an excruciating death. He submitted to it willingly. His last words are some of the most profound in history. Christ did not despair on the cross but put his trust in his heavenly Father. Even in the extreme spiritual desolation, due to carrying the weight of sin of the world on his shoulders, he endured it all and did not give up hope.

    Of course, as an aside, without the resurrection there would be no bite to Christianity. To listen to the lyrics “trust in my self-righteous suicide,” perhaps for the faithful Catholic or Christian, or even the unfaithful Christian, even if death appears a certain way, we believe in the resurrection of the dead precisely because of Christ.

    “When angels deserve to die.” This one is not so easily translated to theology. We believe in angels and demons, and demons in a sense deserve to die, due to their being condemned to hell. To mourn for these “angels” would be madness. So the word “angels” perhaps can better be understood as a name for some good person we admired. This agrees with the band’s own interpretation of their masterpiece.

    Jesus gave St. Faustina a short and most effective prayer “Jesus, I trust in you.” Because the song does end on a positive note, “Trust in my”…death” dropping “I don’t think you” entirely. In sum, being a Catholic I try to see the good in everything and everyone and understand how it witnesses to God. Even in the most extreme of our human experiences or emotions, when our love or our life is being crucified, the light of faith can illuminate our darkest hour.