System of a Down’s “B.Y.O.B.” Lyrics Meaning

B.Y.O.B. is an acronym that is better known to many of us as standing for ‘bring your own booze’. But in the case of this song, it represents something totally different. What it is actually meant to represent is the phrase “bring your own bombs”.

You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for System of a Down's B.Y.O.B. at

And before proceeding with this analysis let it be known, as noted later in this post, that System of a Down’s true origin can be traced back to Armenia. Armenia is a country nestled in Western Asia (i.e. in between Europe and the Middle East and close to Russia) and as such has a very tumultuous history. 

For instance, during World War I the nation bore witness to what is known as the Armenian genocide, which was in large part an anti-Christian initiative. And in more recent times Armenia has been going at it with its eastern neighbor, Azerbaijan. 

So Serj Tankian and co., actually being based in California, could easily neglect their Armenian ancestry if they so desired. But instead they are known to embrace it and acknowledge the experiences of their people via their music.

Lyrics of “B.Y.O.B.”

Put more simply, this is a conscious band. As such, what the title of this song is meant to allude to is the concept of our leaders, most simply put, being akin to warmongers. And as implied in the song, it is us laymen who have to deal with the most dire consequences of these decisions. 

The vocalist argues, if the presidents are the ones who start the wars, then why don’t they also fight them? Instead, they send “the poor” off into the desert or some other battlefield to get their wigs pushed back. And the fact that the narrator mentions “the poor” in this regard instead of citizens in general further implies that the aforementioned “president” is meant to serve as a personification of the aristocracy in general, as in the military-industrial complex, if you will.

“Why do they always send the poor?”

There are other lyrics which are highly-metaphorical and thus not as easy to decipher. But the idea this whole tirade is designed to point to is that, to reiterate, it is that selfsame aristocracy which leads us to war based on their own ambitions. And “the poor” soldiers whose blood and bravery allows these leaders to engage in such initiatives are not appreciated by them but instead are treated like pawns. 

So most simply put, this is an anti-war song. And beyond that, it is also one of those types which paint a less-than-favorable picture of the politicians and other bigwigs who lead us into such conflicts.

“La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, ooh-ooh
Everybody’s going to the party, have a real good time
Dancing in the desert, blowing up the sunshine”
What System of a Down's Daron Malakian sad of "B.Y.O.B."

Who are the “Barbaras”?

In the first verse, we find the narrator talking about “barbarism” being perpetrated by “Barbaras with pointed heels”. We all know what barbarism is. However, what we don’t know is who “Barbaras” are.

Some have argued that “Barbaras” refers to certain group of barbarians from the olden days. However, the terms “Barbaras” and “barbarians” don’t have a direct connection in terms of their origin or meaning. The word “barbarian” comes from the Greek “bárbaros,” used to refer to someone who was not Greek, especially those perceived as uncivilized or primitive. Over time, “barbarian” has been used in different cultures to refer to an outsider or foreigner, often with a negative connotation.

However, we all know that “Barbara” is a common female first name used in America and many other parts of the world.

And since this song is heavily criticizing politicians and their love for wars, it could be very possible that “Barbaras” could be referring to Barbara Bush (1925–2018), the wife of George H. W. Bush, the 41st President of the United States.

Barbara Bush was also the mother of George W. Bush, the 43rd President of the United States, making her one of only two women in American history to have been both a wife and a mother to U.S. Presidents. Barbara served as the First Lady of the United States from 1989 to 1993.

The Bush family have been involved in several wars, both in direct military service and in their roles as political leaders.

“Barbarisms by Barbaras with pointed heels”

So when the narrator says the above, he could be referring to the entire Bush family and the multiple wars they were involved in.

For example, George H. W. Bush, who would later become the 41st President of the United States, served as a naval aviator during World War II. At the age of 18, he became one of the youngest aviators in the U.S. Navy.

Then as As President, Bush oversaw a military campaign to expel invading Iraqi forces from Kuwait. This conflict is often referred to as the Gulf War.

Then following the September 11 attacks, his son, George W. Bush, 43rd President of the United States, initiated the War in Afghanistan.

In 2003, George W. Bush authorized the invasion of Iraq based on controversial intelligence suggesting that the country’s leader, Saddam Hussein, possessed weapons of mass destruction. The invasion led to a protracted conflict known as the Iraq War.

The Long and Short of “B.Y.O.B.”

The members of the System of a Down believe that if a leader is willing to send others into harm’s way, they should be willing to face the same risks. This view reflects a desire for leaders to fully understand and personally bear the consequences of their decisions.

System Of A Down performing this anti-war song live. The performance took place at the 2017 Pinkpop music festival in Megaland, Landgraaf, Netherlands.

System of a Down

System of a Down is a band from California, though tracing their actual ancestry back to Armenia. Dropping five studio albums between 1998 and 2005, they experienced monumental success both critically and commercially. However, the band went on hiatus 2006, though regrouping in 2010.  But since the mid-aught and up until now, they have not released any other albums.

System of a Down is one of those musical acts whose albums have sold exceptionally well but their singles, not so much. As such “B.Y.O.B.”, which barely broke the top 30 of the Billboard Hot 100, marks the highest position they ever achieved on that list. And the platinum certification this track received also stands as the best any of SOAD’s singles has ever performed via the RIAA.

Despite being nominated for a Grammy Award on four different occasions, System of a Down only took home the trophy once. And that was in 2006, when “B.Y.O.B.” emerged victorious from the Best Hard Rock Performance category.

Writing Credits for “B.Y.O.B.”

The writing of this song is officially credited to Serj Tankian and his bandmate Daron Malakian. These men are respectively the lead vocalist and lead guitarist of SOAD. However, earlier on there was some legal controversy concerning that accreditation. This is because another musician, Casey Chaos, who is a former associate of Malakian’s, claimed to have had a hand in writing this piece. 

In fact Chaos was officially listed amongst the recipients of the aforementioned Grammy. But later on, Casey decided to sue System of a Down on the grounds that he wasn’t being properly compensated for his contributions to “B.Y.O.B.”. That plan backfired, as the court then went on to rule that the song was written exclusively by Malakian and Tankian.

When was “B.Y.O.B.” released?

This classic was released on 29 March 2005. It was the lead single from System of a Down’s “Mezmerize” album.

More Facts

The first live performance of this piece happened on 4 April. This was about a week after its release. The said performance occurred at the London Astoria. And on that note let it be known that it was a British director, Jake Nava, who put together the music video for this track.

The eye-catching cover art to this single was created by Vartan Malakian, a professional visual artist who is also the father of Daron Malakian.

To note, neither the phrase “B.Y.O.B.” nor “bring your own bombs” is mentioned in the lyrics.


System of a Down’s “Mezmerize” Album

On May 17 of 2005, “Mezmerize” was officially launched as the band’s fourth studio album.

Malakian and highly acclaimed American record producer, Rick Rubin were responsible for producing the album.

American Recordings and Columbia Records were the record labels through which the 36.6 minute long album was released. “Mezmerize” came out as the band’s shortest album.  

It has won a lot of accolades since its release. In 2005, it was listed as one of “Top 100 Editor’s Picks” by

“Mezmerize” has sold about half a million copies in the US alone and has received a Platinum certification from the RIAA there. It has been certified Platinum in New Zealand, Ireland, Finland, Denmark and Australia. In Canada, it had a 3x Platinum certification. In the UK, Germany, Greece, France, Brazil Belgium, Australia and Argentina, it earned a Gold certification.

“Mezmerize” peaked at the apex of charts in the following countries:

  • United States
  • Switzerland
  • Australia
  • Canada
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • New Zealand
  • Austria

It also charted within the top-10 in the following places:

  • The Netherlands (5)
  • Poland (5)
  • Mexico (5)
  • Italy (4)
  • Ireland (2)
  • Finland (2)
  • Denmark (3)
  • Belgium (6)

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