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.'"
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