System of a Down’s “Chop Suey!” Lyrics Meaning

There are a number of diverse explanations of System of a Down’s “Chop Suey!” meaning floating around. The most-prevailing one is that it deals with the issue of substance abuse, which in a roundabout way is true. But more precisely, according to band member and co-writer Daron Malakian, this tune is actually about how people are perceived after they die. Malakian is basically saying that the way a person passes determines how they will be judged by others afterwards. And in detailing this explanation, Malakian used the hypothetical situation of a person dying from substance abuse as an example. Indeed the most-outstanding lines of the song, “I cry when angels deserve to die”, is actually supposed to point to the aforementioned idea.

Bridge of “Chop Suey!”

The bridge of the track also references a couple of lines from the Bible, specifically those uttered by Jesus while he was being crucified. It is not abundantly clear how exactly this ties into the overall theme as detailed above. We think perhaps it is meant to point to the idea of how Jesus, based on the way he died, is perceived differently from say a drug addict. Also in a way, since based on the Biblical tale, Jesus willingly went to his own death, perhaps such is what System of a Down is referring to when they mention “self-righteous suicide” in the chorus.

“Self-Righteous Suicide”

Indeed concerning the explanation of the unusual title of the track, this song originally went by the unconventional title of “Self-Righteous Suicide”. But the band’s management reportedly did not approve the aforementioned title. So it was renamed to “Chop Suey!” And this is actually a parody of the original title, as it is derived from the mock statement “Self-Right-chop Suey-cide”.

And the term “self-righteous suicide”, whether it be pertaining to a drug addict or a martyr, would logically be based on the notion of someone willingly – so to speak – giving their life for what they believe in. But that being said, going back to the first sentence of this article, it has been speculated even by fans of System of a Down that this song actually has multiple meanings. Or that’s another way of saying that it can be interpreted from various angles, ranging from domestic violence to substance abuse to a critique of popular religious beliefs, if you will.

Music Video

Marcos Siega, the director of the video, also directed the visual for the title track from the “Toxicity” album. And the “Chop Suey!” video is obviously a masterpiece in and of itself, having garnered well over four-million likes on YouTube as of 2019.

But what really is the meaning of the phrase “chop suey”?

Chop suey itself is actually a popular traditional dish, dating back to at least the 19th century. It is considered to be Chinese in origin.

Release Date of “Chop Suey!”

“Chop Suey!” was released on 13 August 2001. The band brought it out as the lead single from their famed second album, “Toxicity”.

Accomplishments of “Chop Suey!”

Amongst the accomplishments and accolades this tune has achieved is charting in the countries below:

  • Australia
  • Belgium
  • Canada
  • Ireland
  • Netherlands
  • United Kingdom

And whereas it only managed to peaked at number 76 on System of a Down’s native America, it is still considered by many to be the band’s signature song.

Critical acclamation of “Chop Suey!” also resulted in it being System of a Down’s first nomination at the Grammys. This occurred in 2002.

Is “Chop Suey!” really “Lyrical Questionable”?

You may have noticed that “Chop Suey!” was released shortly before the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States which rattled the known world. And logically, given the stated rationale of the terrorists who perpetrated this act, the song’s reference to “self-righteous suicide” bothered some American listeners in the wake of this event. Indeed Clear Channel Communications (currently known as iHeartMedia), which owns more radio stations in America than any other entity, actually deemed this track, along with over 150 other songs, as “lyrical questionable”, once again in the aftermath of 9/11. And accordingly they advised their program directors not to play it.

Cover Versions

Among the many artists who have covered “Chop Suey!” is Avril Lavigne. And the song was also parodied by none other than Weird Al Yankovic himself.

Who wrote “Chop Suey!”?

“Chop Suey!” was written by the members of System of a Down. And their names are as follows:

  • John Dolmayan
  • Daron Malakian
  • Shavo Odadjian
  • Serj Tankian

FYI, their unique names are due to the crew being of Armenian ancestry.

Tankian and Malakian also produced the track, teaming up with legendary producer Rick Rubin in the process.

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