Toxicity

Album: Toxicity (2001)
Charted: 25 70
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Songfacts®:

  • The word "Toxicity" means the level of toxins in an item. There is lots of room for interpretation in the lyrics, as the toxins could refer to the city of Los Angeles (a "toxic city") and the Hollywood lifestyle, but could also be a commentary on the music industry, religion, corruption, drugs or any number of things that the band feels is poisoning people.
  • This is the title track from System Of A Down's second album, which like their self-titled 1998 debut, was produced by Rick Rubin. After building a following in Los Angeles, the band signed to Rubin's label, American Recordings. They took their time with Toxicity, recording over 30 songs for it before winnowing it down to 15. It was issued on September 4, 2001, just a week before 9/11. The lead single, "Chop Suey," got pulled from playlists and for a few months nobody was talking about the latest music. As life went back to (a new) normal, promotion on the album resumed, and in January 2002, "Toxicity" was released as the second single. It did well, but the more accessible (by System standards) "Aerials" was issued as the third single and did even better, going to #1 on both the Mainstream Rock and Alternative Songs charts. The album sold over 3 million copies in America.

    The songs that were recorded for the album but didn't make it comprised the bulk of their next album, Steal This Album!, in 2002. Their next album didn't appear until 2005 with Mezmerize, which like Toxicity, went to #1 in the US.
  • The video was the first one directed by the band's bass player, Shavo Odadjian, who co-directed it with Marcos Siega, who did the video for "Chop Suey." Like "Chop Suey," the video shows the band performing on a small stage surrounded by fans, who go bananas when the band gets to the rave-up section. Odadjian explained to MTV: "The universe is the sacred silence and sleep, and the kids are the disorder. So how do you control the disorder in that universe? You can't. To me, that's 'Toxicity.'"
  • SOAD drummer John Dolmayan told MTV: "'Toxicity' was one of those songs where we hadn't done anything like it before. It required something completely different than any other System song did. The guitars are just, in some ways, really powerful, and in others, they just step back so that the melody can take over a little bit. So it's a really good combination of aggression and melodic elements, which represents this album."
  • During a performance at the 2005 Download Festival, Daron Malakian said that the song was about Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), a condition that causes a person to have trouble concentrating. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bertrand - Paris, France

Comments: 28

  • Kelsey P from Arlington, VaI believe this song to be about Psychiatry and it's damaging effects on our culture, and how they "own disorder" and label people as ill when in fact they aren't. This could be referring to the DSM, how they literally own disorder, creating and literally voting on what to put in their next DSM so they can label more people as "crazy" and manufacture more drugs to make their money off of. Psychiatry is a powerful organization that basically "owns the world", or at least they think they do, spreading their toxic tendrils into the political system and manipulating the minds of our leaders and negatively effecting our citizens and our youth. "Eating seeds as a pass time activity" can refer to how psychs push drugs on people, drugs being "seeds"and make that seem normal, and how people wind up getting addicted to drugs with these toxic substances, and how casually doing drugs is now "ok" and "normal". Not only that, but these drugs they push on people make people look at look at life "through a tire hub", an emotional tunnel vision, if you will. "More wood for their fire loud neighbors" could be a metaphor for people who act out in anyway can get put on psych drugs if the psychiatrist gets their hands on them, fueling the fire of the multi-billion dollar industry disguising themselves as a helpful and benevolent entity when really they are a toxic, evil corporation that only wants to be respected in the scientific community by pushing drugs on people through their claims to "cure", even though their claims are not based on scientific fact-all this does is create a toxic society where drugs are normal. And perhaps "when I became the sun I shown life into the man's hearts" could be that Sergio is implying that he shed light on this overlooked problem, because people don't see psychiatry as a common enemy and that our society is going to s--t because of them, but no one suspects it. People are so dumbed down by drugs (intentional) that they don't even think to look at that. By showing life into the man's hearts he could be referring to empowering the people by letting them know that they do not need drugs and that they can break away from the toxic nature of our society. It is obviously up for interpretation but this is what I get out of this very deep song.
  • Ben from Phoenix, AzHaha... these lyrics.. are obvious what they're about when you know... "When I became the sun" is spelled incorrectly for the actual meaning. Version 7.0 is also more meaningful than people understand as well.
  • Aydan B. from Biloxi, MsIf this song gets looked at in a more historical perspective, you can actually line this song up with descriptions of Chernobyl. “Sacred silence and sleep” would refer to the prayers and silent suffering that occurred from the lack of knowledge the residents had in the area of the severity of the disaster.

    “Looking at life through the eyes of a tire hub” might possibly refer to the vehicle graveyard and abandonment seen as nature began to take back over the area.
  • Marie from Allentown, Palooking at life through a tire hub: how people choose to look at life instead of say, looking at life with real honesty and empowerment
    eating seeds as a past time activity: how people sit and act like they make no real choices in life, the just eat their own chaos and accept no real responsibility
    how do you own the world, how do you own disorder: how can one own a world in chaos and disorder?
    Now somewhere between the sacred silence, sacred silence and sleep: the sacred silence is the truth, sacred silence and sleep is him comparing the truth or what is reality (a sacred reality)
    and sleep being mankind's existence, he's saying we live in a perpetual state of sleep, again, not making intentional choices in our lives
    new wood for the fires, loud neighbors: wood for the fires being again, the fires are the disorder, he's saying that people feed the fires of nonacceptance of reality, truth, SANITY
    flashlight reveries caught in the headlights of a truck: not exactly sure, could be saying that mankind's perpetual state of being lost IS illuminated but their not seen for what they are, but seen headlights of a TRUCK as opposed to being recognized as gifts for mankind to learn from
    You, what do you own the world, how do you own disorder? Its mankind's ego saying "I own this great thing" instead of recognizing that great thing is an ongoing state of disorder or insanity
    and that's not much to be proud of
    When I became the SUN, I shown life into the mans hearts: the most powerful statement in the song. The sun being the light, it was given to mankind, the truth. Recognition of mankind's
    reality. Life being that we are all life, we are all more powerful than we seem to be able to realize, but it is in our hearts, and that is the biggest tragedy, that we refuse to realize this and
    cause the disorder. Disorder meaning mankind's insanity. And its destroying this world.
  • Gracie from Norway, Maine, MeIn my opinion, it really can't be denied that the whole 'eating seeds as a pastime activity' lyric is about Armenians and they're love of sunflower seeds.
    It's actually considered a pastime in Armenia, to just sit there, eating the flesh of sunflower seeds, to spit them out, to continue on like that.

    Maybe it's about how mindless we can be.
    Just sitting there, doing these mindnumbing activities, not knowing what it actually wrong with our world.
    Too sucked into our mindless computer programs and games to notice all of the issues we have.
  • Justin from Columbia, MoI have not idea, but I think I was wrong in my last post. Eating seeds apparently is a well known Armenian past time activity. (Sun Flower Seeds I think) Maybe the software version is referring to music mixing. The whole song seems to be about someone who can't make his dream happen, but does in the end. Almost as if the singer of the song is singing about himself. At the end he became famous.
  • Justin from Columbia, MoI do believe this is about ADD. Here is my interpretation of the first verse. The first verse is all about spending an extreme amount of time on a computer.
    Conversion, software version 7.0, (Possibly converting movies to DVD or DIVX.)
    Looking at life through the eyes of a tire hub, (For a person with ADD (untreated) Its very hard to focus. Your concentration is like a spinning tire/wheel. Always has to be doing something to keep busy. My son has it.
    Eating seeds as a pastime activity, (Seeds have to deal with bit torrents. Many people seed programs, games, videos, and a special program is used to download from all of the seeds speeding up the download.)
    The toxicity of our city, of our city, (The everyday life has became an addiction)
  • Sup Dogg from Portland, Bangladeshthis is what this song means to me


    Conversion software version 7.0
    what is software? A program. As in were programmed to belive certain things and soak up the propaganda.
    Looking at life through the eyes of a tire hub
    Were programmed to look at life small mindedly chasing things like money
    Eating seeds as a past time activity, the toxicity of our city of our city
    The seeds are the propaganda or ideas that life is about having money or things of similar nature. We eat the seeds on tv that they feed us. Eating propaganda when were bored (watching tv when were bored, ya dig?) and all of this bull s--t we hear and belive is ruining our societys. The citys are toxic.
    You what do you own the world? How do you own disorder, disorder?
    I think hes literally saying to corporations and banks, why do you think you can control the world. The world is disorder. We devour to survive. Think about how crazy the cosmos is and the destructive and creative power it has. That’s just the way life is. Yin and yang. You cant control disorder.
    Somewhere between the sacred silence and sleep, disorder disorder etc..
    Even when you make people in middle class America think they are safe and everything in the world is fine with their “sacred silence and sleep”, there is still somewhere around the world that is chaotic where people are killing eachother and what not. Take for example the kids who are forced into killing people or sexual slavery, that that Kony bastard kidnaps. Im sure 95% of the people (including me) had no idea this was going on in the world until this week.
    More wood for the fires loud neighbors
    I actually have no idea how to decipher this. Im guessing it just means giving more “fuel” to keep the toxicity going
    Flashlight reveries caught in the headlights of a truck
    Reveries is another word for “daydreaming” or “dreams”. So we have these dreams of becoming rich, famous, popular etc… but we are getting these dreams from the lights of a truck. So these dreams will actually end up killing you and are not really important. Like we are deer mesmerized by the lights(reveries, frivolous dreams) of a truck(false ideas of what life is about) and don’t even realize a f--king truck is gonna run us over in the end. Not sure if I made total sense its hard for me to construct my ideas down on paper.
    When I became the sun I shone life into the mans heart.
    Im not really sure about this one either. I think its something along the lines of I just told you all of this information now go f--king do something about it.
  • Conor from Omaha, NeHeres what i think, "somewhere between sacred silence and sleep, disorder, disorder disorder", means that between your birth and your death, there is only confusion, and "you, what do you own the world, how do you own disorder" is questioning how well people and governments will really work in the time of a global crisis
  • Jamie from Oconto Falls, Wiwell..
    not that anybody asked my opinion, but, this kind of reminds me of something from the soviet union in world war 2. Where stalin would cut off all supplies from towns and burn them to the ground so the enemy wouldn't have anything to survive on. "conversion" where stalin converts the cities to desolate uninhabitable wastelands. "eating seeds" this might have been what was going through stalins mind while he was high and mighty. "the toxicity of our city" obviously contributes to my theory. "no, what do you own the world? how do you own disorder." stalin thinks he can do whatever he wants, he causes disorder. "now, somewhere between the sacred silence" i don't know, might have been what the villagers where thinking when all the fighting was going on. the sudden lulls? "more wood for the fires, loud neighbors" stalin and hitler were allies, then hitler thought he was better than stalin and that caused the tensions between them to grow or "heat up" germany is their neighbor. "caught in the headlights of a truck" like the deer standing in the headlights, stalin didn't see this coming. then really i don't have much to say for the "when i became the sun" that doesn't sound ridiculous. but maybe hitler and stalin were the "sun" that shown life into the mans hearts the mans being the soldiers and life being hope because Germany was in a depression from ww1. so..maybe that all sounds crazy but that's the way i see it. it was probably more or less a huge history lesson. ;)
  • Jesse from Sioux City, IaWhen they say "eating seeds as a past time activity" I interpreted it as how many people now get high with chemical drugs such as ihalints or pills that have toxins instead of using natural stuff like morning glory seeds
  • Joe from El Paso, TxI agree wit all uv yew. Yes, toksisity is the measure of how toksic something is. When serj first came to America, he came to LA. Where serj comes from its not very urban (city-like) like the usa so its all a very different and non-peaceful place for serj. Let me note that serj is a vegitarian and s slaughterhouses and all that... so.. yeah...
  • Dale from New Orleans, LaDoes anyone interpret "Somewhere, between the sacred silence and sleep, Disorder, disorder, disorder." as something do to with the mind when it's in a dream-like state? If the fact above is true, and it is about ADD, then this could be referring to how many people seem to have the disorder these days and how it affect their lives. To me the lyrics, "Conversion, software version 7.0," means we, as a culture, go through life with the same routine all of our lives, only stopping to upgrade ourselves by buying things we think we need and things that save time and effort. "Looking at life through the eyes of a tire hub." is an obscure reference of how this routine affects our mind, seemingly making our heads spin. System seems to be referring to how people build their homes closer and closer in the lyrics: "More wood for their fires, loud neighbors, Flashlight reveries caught in the headlights of our truck." and neighbors cause distractions. A Reverie is literally defined as: A state of abstracted musing; daydreaming. Flashlight reveries are most probably "flashes of daydreams" as we drive our cars. Sometimes when I drive alone, I will be sub-consciously driving perfectly but my mind is somewhere else and I snap in and out of it. I'm sure many people do this as well. I have no idea how these lyrics could relate to the chorus, as "You! What, do you own the world? How do you own disorder, disorder?" seems like its referring to government control over crime. Although it may be saying that the government is giving ADD to people, which is far-fetched and unlikely, but it would explain why so many people have this disorder these days. Think about it.
  • Carrie from Shavo\'s House :d, ArmeniaAwesome song. I'm listening to it now. ;D
  • Zach from Paris, Ilthe drums in this song are awsum
  • Matt from Houston, Txone of my favorite albums ever
  • Hannah from Statesville, NcI think its talking about how the world is becoming more corrrupt and our cities are too . its like how can people own people like the governtment tries to do and the last lines when i became the sun i shone life into the mans heart could possibly be reffering to how Jesus was the son and he shone light into the mans heart
    at least thats how i interpret it
    . Best System Of A Down song ever !
  • Mitch from Ottawa, OnI think it has something to do with opium, at least the line "eating seeds as a passtime activity"
  • Attila from Dunavarsány, Hungary"Eating seeds as a pastime activity" might refer to the high level of drug use in LA, the USA or Earth in general
  • Raymond from Brunswick, United Statesthis song is about how people and industry destroy a lot of animal's natural habitats by polluting them with noise and cars and deforestation. also people, "own the world" but the way the world works is disordered, and you cant own disorder.
  • Chris from Savannah, GeorgiaI always thought this song was about the government poisoning the people...
  • Jak from Dalton, GaI think it's about the lifestyle obsession of everyone now a days.

    about unindividuality and corruption.

    good song.
  • Airk from Skagway, Ak"Eating seeds as a pastime activity"

    That line made me think the song had something to do with woodland creatures!!!
  • Dan from Cincinnati, Nvi agree with all of your points and thoughts of Toxicity.

    to me it is about LA, no offense to people in La but if you think about it they have no way of life all they do is buy buy buy trying to be better and more flasshy RICHER in a more simpler way of putting it they give the rest of the U.S. ideas of what they are doing this is our society now
  • Adriel from Tampa, Fltoxicity.....to me it talks about the violent and cruel place that L.A is, "you, what do you own the world, how do you own disorder" means to me as if theyre talking to the governer, he thinks he owns everything, but why would you be proud to own something thats so out of order hence "disorder". "eating seeds as a past time activity" meaning our kids these days are just lazy and watching their lives go by, and not doing anything about it.
  • Nicholas from Fruitland Park, FlI think it might be a bit more broad than just LA. I think that 'Toxic City' (Toxicity) is based on one of three things.~
    1.America, and the 'Toxicity' of the people and overall lifestyle.
    2.The Turkish. Pretty self explanatory, if you know about the Armenian Genocide.
    3.Earth. Basically the same thing as America.

    I might be wrong, and remember, its a THEORY. We'll probably never know.
  • Tony from Burton, MiI personally think this song is about L.A. and the glamorous front it puts up. The title of the song, Toxicity, signifies all the pollution in the city- not just physical, but mental, too. The lines "You! What, do you own the world? How do you own disorder, disorder?" shows that people try to make L.A. out to be a great city, while under the surface, it's disorder- a dangerous, toxic place. "Somewhere between the sacred silence and sleep" could refer to death, and the high amount of it in L.A. "More wood for their fires, loud neighbors" is possibly a reference to the violence that seems ever-present in L.A., and that it's more wood for their fires- it's self-perpetuating.
  • Otto from Miami, United StatesToxicity could refer to the amount of crime or overall level of living in L.A. What do you own the world could could refer to the way certain people or politicians act with no regard to human life and happiness
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