Top 20 System of a Down Songs of All Time

Updated on November 18, 2017
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Poppy Reid is a proofreader for Japan Info and a video game enthusiast. She lives in Tokyo and has two hamsters named Zelda and Hemingway.

System of a Down is a heavy metal band from California, and the band members, Serj Tankian, Daron Malakian, Shavo Odadjian, and John Dolmayan, are all of Armenian descent. They found success with their five studio albums, singles, and hit songs that have won several awards, and have sold over 40 million copies worldwide.

They are often regarded as an example of great nu-metal music of the 1990s and 2000s. They're well-known for ambiguous lyrics and singing about politics and problems with the nation (hence the name, suggesting bringing down a corrupt system). Although the music I listen to now as an adult is generally much more mellow, I was a huge fan as a teenager and have nice memories of listening to their music while studying for my A-Levels.

SOAD also has elements of Middle-Eastern music and a blend of other genres such as progressive rock, folk, and even jazz, making their sound quite unique and easily recognisable.

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Although the band went on hiatus in 2006, they got together to tour and perform again in the 2010s at various festivals, and rumour has it they are planning to release a sixth album! This is something many fans were excited to hear.

The band members have also become involved in other musical endeavours. Serj released several songs and albums by himself, and Daron also has a band called Scars on Broadway that was joined for a while by Shavo.

To celebrate the upcoming sixth SOAD studio album, here is a look back at their top 20 songs so far.

20. "ATWA"

Album: Toxicity
Year of release: 2001
Sung by: Serj Tankian

"ATWA" stands for Air, Trees, Water, Animals and is about the beliefs of Charles Manson and his views on the environment. Manson was a serial killer and a cult leader, which often trumps his environmental beliefs, and this strange oxymoron was the inspiration of lyrics such as "I've got nothing, to gain, to lose."

I really like the initial gentle tune that leads on to something more frustrated and angry. This song, bizarrely, reminds me of playing basketball in high school.

19. "Metro"

Album: Hypnotize
Year of release: 1995, 2005
Sung by: Serj Tankian

"Metro" is a song by Berlin that has been covered by a number of artists including Alkaline Trio, Hannah Fury, and of course, System of a Down. The original version was released on their Untitled 1995 Demo Tape, and a more upbeat version with some vocal work from Daron was released as part of the Hypnotize album in 2005.

I like this cover because it remains true to SOAD's unique sound, and a personal touch was added by changing the lyrics "I remember hating you for loving me" to "F*** you for loving me."

18. "Mind"

Album: System of a Down
Year of release: 1998
Sung by: Serj Tankian

Mind is on System of a Down's first album of the same name. There are several interpretations such as failing relationships, but the most accepted meaning is the criticism of a totalitarian state, where "free thinkers are dangerous" and social interaction is discouraged because it can lead to rebellion.

The start of the song is gentle and chilled out, indicating a peaceful time, before becoming angry. I think it's a song about how those higher up than us use every attempt to control our thoughts and actions. It's a really cool song, as most on SOAD's first album are.

17. "Question!"

Album: Mezmerize
Year of release: 2005
Sung by: Serj Tankian/Daron Malakian

"Question!" is probably the best song on the Mezmerize album, and is an energetic song about the afterlife, and asking the big question of "what happens to us when we die?" one of the biggest questions humanity has asked and attempted to answer.

16. "Chic 'n' Stu"

Album: Steal This Album!
Year of release: 2002
Sung by: Daron Malakian/Serj Tankian

The first on the 2002 album Steal this Album! is the amusing song "Chic 'n' Stu", which I think is about consumerism and how we "buy buy buy buy" in excess. Advertising is thrust into our faces, making us think we need things we don't need, sometimes causing society problems ("need therapy, therapy.") Another theory is how we cannot think for ourselves anymore, we just like and dislike what the media tells us to.

15. "Marmalade"

Album: System of a Down
Year of release: 1998
Sung by: Serj Tankian

"Marmalade", with its rather obscure lyrics, is a reference to having sex and affairs. I really love the tempo of this song and it continues to be one of my favourites.

14. "Lost in Hollywood"

Album: Mezmerize
Year of release: 2005
Sung by: Daron Malakian

Although Serj's vocals also appear in "Lost in Hollywood", it's mostly sung by Daron. This melancholy tune is all about heading to Hollywood to find fame and fortune, only to become a drug abuser or homeless. Women are over-sexualised and people go crazy in their desperate attempt at becoming famous.

I really love this song and its message. Daron was born and grew up in Hollywood, so I'm sure he of all people know what he's talking about with the harsh realities of this world-famous area of L.A.

13. Spiders

Album: System of a Down
Year of release: 1998
Sung by: Serj Tankian

"Spiders" was featured in the movie Scream 3's soundtrack and also in the video game Rock Band 4. There are some interesting theories to the meaning of this song, including FBI and government control, brainwashing through TV, and even futuristic, Matrix-life institutions. It's definitely one of SOAD's best.

12. "P.L.U.C.K."

Album: System of a Down
Year of release: 1998
Sung by: Serj Tankian

With one of the coolest intros, P.L.U.C.K. is a catchy song from SOAD's first album that stands for Politically Lying, Unholy, Cowardly Killers and tells the story of the genocide against Armenian people by the Turkish government in 1915. Since the band members are of Armenian descent, it's no wonder they wrote a song about this sad and despicable history.

As well as the lyrics, this is one of my favourite songs in terms of music. You can really feel the anger and desire to get the message across.

11. "I-E-A-I-A-I-O"

Album: Steal This Album!
Year of release: 2002
Sung by: Serj Tankian

I-E-A-I-A-E-O, which cleverly takes the vowels from the words "idealization", "illegalization", "liberalization", and "internalization", is another song about the unfair and powerful system that keeps us in place. The verses are full of impressive tongue twisters that seem like nonsense at first, but interestingly spell out messages such as, one fan has suggested, "Media back-end power is bull s*** opposing for the benefit of propaganda."

This song sounds more new-age than their older stuff and is super catchy and memorable.

10. "Roulette"

Album: Steal This Album!
Year of release: 2002
Sung by: Serj Tankian

This is a really unusual song for System of a Down, much more gentle and mellow than their usual stuff. At first, it seems like a love song, but it's more about feelings in a strained relationship. Other theories suggest that it's about a woman he loves but feels he will never get.

Songs about relationships are pretty rare with SOAD, and I love this one! I just had to include it on this list.

9. "Prison Song"

Album: Toxicity
Year of release: 2001
Sung by: Serj Tankian/Daron Malakian

A cool start to the Toxicity album is "Prison Song", a song with much clearer messages than some of the others on this list. Serj states American prison statistics, the normalization of drug abuse in Hollywood, and the use of drug money to commit crimes all over the world.

This song gets you all riled up and excited! It's definitely one of their best, not only for writing a great tune, but with purpose behind it as well.

8. "Soil"

Album: System of a Down
Year of release: 1998
Sung by: Serj Tankian

Another one from their first album is "Soil", and it has one of my favourite guitar solos of SOAD's songs. Fans theorise that "Soil" is about a friend of the band members who committed suicide. "Evil lives in the skin" could refer to depression and the name of the song could be referring to the soil that sits above his coffin where he is buried.

7. "Dreaming"

Album: Hypnotize
Year of release: 2005
Sung by: Serj Tankian/Daron Malakian

This song is quite nostalgic for me because it's the first System of a Down song I heard. I also love Serj and Daron's harmonising in this wild and crazy song that really takes you for a ride. There is a great theory to the meaning of this song on SongMeanings.com.

6. "Aerials"

Album: Toxicity
Year of release: 2001
Sung by: Serj Tankian

Most people know the song "Aerials," as it is one of SOAD's most popular. I just love the guitar riff in this one. Some say the song is about how humans can be incredibly close-minded and stupid at times. Others say it's about religious or spiritual enlightenment, and others claim it's saying how we as people lose ourselves in the crowd and forget who we really are. What do you think?

5. "Sugar"

Album: System of a Down
Year of release: 1998
Sung by: Serj Tankian/Daron Malakian

This was mine and my best friend in high school's favourite song. It's about how the media and the establishment controls regular people, as is powerfully expressed in the short clip before the song on their official video. It's also about how we don't fight back at the establishment, but accept being mundane and average and take out our frustrations on those close to us instead.

Lyrics aside, the song itself is also super catchy and cool!

4. "Know"

Album: System of a Down
Year of release: 1998
Sung by: Serj Tankian

The last song on here from SOAD’s first album is “Know”, a song that refers to religion and people who pretend to know things that they really have no idea about, such as life after death. It’s a fantastic song and probably the best on the album.

3. "B.Y.O.B"

Album: Mezmerize
Year of release: 2005
Sung by: Serj Tankian

Many people know this song from the popular video game Rock Band 2. Its a crazy metal song about the horrors of war, brainwashing, and propaganda.

2. Chop Suey

Album: Toxicity
Year of release: 2001
Sung by: Serj Tankian

This is generally the first song people think of when System of a Down is mentioned. Many fans speculate that “Chop Suey” is about religion, and others say it’s about domestic or child abuse. It was nominated for a Grammy for best metal performance and was ranked as the best hard rock song of the 21st century by Loudwire.

1. "Toxicity"

Album: Toxicity
Year of release: 2001
Sung by: Serj Tankian

I remember “discovering” this song on a rock and metal music channel called Scuzz and falling completely in love with it. "Toxicity" is about poison and pollution, particularly, a fan has theorized, the pollution of Armenia and bringing it from a happy, bright society to the poisoned and damaged country it is now.

I love everything about this song, from the video to the heavy instrumental. In my opinion, this is the best System of a Down song!

There are many System of a Down fans out there who are looking forward to the release of the band’s sixth studio album. This band is great live and although their lyrics may seem obscure at first, they often have quite deep meanings. Nu-metal fans think of SOAD as one of the main bands for this genre and continue to enjoy their wild and unique sound.

Do you agree with this list of System of a Down’s top 20 songs? Which one did you like best?

© 2017 Poppy

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    • poppyr profile image
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      Poppy 3 weeks ago from Tokyo, Japan

      Wow that’s really cool! System are awesome. Thank you for commenting :)

    • Hannah Herrera profile image

      Hannah 3 weeks ago

      I absolutely love this article. I also listened to System as a teen, and my husband can play all their music on the guitar. Well done Poppy!

    • poppyr profile image
      Author

      Poppy 4 weeks ago from Tokyo, Japan

      Hi Flourish! I think they probably learned a lot about corruption in Hollywood and Armenian genocide from their families. They seem to be very intelligent people. Metal and rock songs can often get away with these kinds of topics because their music is not considered mainstream and therefore easier to control and manipulate.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 4 weeks ago from USA

      What angst filled songs but topics that you don’t often find covered by other music groups. No fluff here! I do wonder what experiences prompted these singers to be filled with such passion for the essentially political topics they undertake in their music.

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