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Jet Pilot by System of a Down: Lyrics Meaning and Interpretation

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Jet Pilot is an alternative metal / nu metal song by the American-Armenian band System of a Down. The song appeared in the band’s 2001 album Toxicity. Written by lead vocalist Serj Tankian, Jet Pilot was not released as an official single.

The album Toxicity was a hit. It reached the number one position on both the Canadian Albums Chart and the Billboard 200. Many music critics and fans alike praised the album for its innovative sound. Some of the themes explored lyrically in Toxicity are police brutality, drug addiction and many political issues.

System of a Down was formed in the year 1994. It consists of band members – Serj Tankian (lead vocalist and keyboardist), Shavo Odadjian (backing vocalist and bassist), Daron Malakian (Guitarist) and John Dolmayan (drummer).  

Before diving into the Jet Pilot lyrics meaning, you should learn about the significance of the song’s title.

Title – What does it mean?

The Jet Pilot lyrics meaning is almost entirely open to interpretation. None of the band members have ever come forward with a direct explanation of the song’s lyrics. Listeners and fans of System of a Down have regularly pitched in with their own analysis for most of the band’s songs.

 Jet Pilot, the song’s title, could refer to the carpet bombing attacks on the country of Armenia. Due to System of a Down’s Armenian roots, the song could be talking about the violence afflicting Armenia, especially the Shelling of Stepanakert.

Between the year 1991 and 1992, Azerbaijani military forces attacked and captured the city of Stepanakert in Nagorno Karabakh. This occurred during the first Nagorno Karabakh war between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Although cryptic in its tone, the following sections will try to decipher the Jet Pilot lyrics meaning.

Verse 1 – What does it mean?

My horse is a shackled old man

His, his remorse was that he couldn’t survey

Lyricist and lead vocalist Serj Tankian speaks on behalf of the Armenian troops and citizens in these lines. During the Nagorno Karabakh war, Armenia was outnumbered and outclassed by the Azerbaijani aircrafts. In fact, Armenia literally possessed a singular fighter plane and two obsolete ground attackers. This was insufficient to defend against the Azerbaijani troops. Therefore, the Armenian military was akin to a “shackled old man”. “Horse” here becomes a metaphor for the weapons and crafts of warfare.

The attack on Armenia was not prepared for properly. The Armenian government could not foresee or predict the impact of a war against Azerbaijan. Their defeat was heavy on all Armenians, leaving only remorse which the government “couldn’t survey”.

The skies right before, right before they went grey

My horse and my remorse flying over a great bay

The Azerbaijan forces captured the only airport in Armenia during the Siege of Stepanakert. Armenian troops and citizens were attacked with bombs, shells and rockets. Since the airport was in Azerbaijan’s hands, Armenians could not escape. Only their remorse and regret could fly “over a great bay”.

On top of all the bombings and shelling, the Azerbaijani mercenary pilots were ordered to drop tear gas routinely. This was a ruse to force Armenian troops out of hiding and into the light to be captured and conquered. Due to all this, the streets were always filled with clouds of smoke and dust and the skies “went grey”. Going grey is also a metaphor for the lack of hope in the hearts of Armenian residents and soldiers.

Chorus – What does it mean?

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Wired were the eyes of a horse on a Jet Pilot

One that smiled when he flew over the bay

Wired were the eyes of a horse on a Jet Pilot

One that smiled when he flew over the bay

The chorus of the song explains the Jet Pilot lyrics meaning well. The “Jet Pilot” in question here is the actual pilot or pilots who flew the aircrafts tasked with bombing the country of Armenia. These pilots dropped rockets and tear gas on the Armenian people, causing suffering and destruction. The imagery of “eyes of a horse on a Jet Pilot” refers to the reflection of the target on the visor of a Jet Pilot’s helmet.

The use of the expression “smiled” refers to the sadistic pleasure experienced from destroying the enemy. It is hollow and temporary, but in the heat of the moment it does feel good. When taken as a whole into account, the chorus of the song could be a commentary on the advancement of technology. On one hand, technology makes life easier and faster. From walking on foot to riding horses to the present age of flying aircrafts, humanity has come a long way with technology.

But this has also made wars more accessible, causing more damage in a short amount of time. One would assume that an easier life, aided by the growth in technology, promotes peace. In the wrong hands, however, technology becomes another tool to unleash one’s wrath. “over the bay” then becomes an expression of what would happen next. Will technology finally bring peace or lead to total annihilation?

Verse 2 – What does it mean?

My source is the source of all creation

Her discourse is that we all don’t survey

Nature created humans and horses. While humans created fighter jets, weapons and bombs. But who created everyone? That is a never ending question. However, “the source of all creation” is not to be only contemplated for the sake of intellectual stimulation. Human beings need to learn from the fragility of life and the randomness of existence. They should cherish the life bestowed on them as it can be taken away at a moment’s notice.

Yet, humans “don’t survey” or find ways to keep life together. Instead, they find ways to end it, knowing fully well that the mystery of life is yet to be discovered.

The skies right before, right before they go grey

My source and my remorse flying over a great bay

This is a request to humanity in general. Instead of fighting over egos and territories, humans should search for important answers, like who created everything. If they keep engaging in battles, they will keep losing lives. Ignorance will forever loom in the skies as they “go grey” with a lack of knowledge. There will be few brains to work on important questions and fewer to answer them. Humanity will cease to rise and grow.

Hope you have now understood the Jet Pilot lyrics meaning.

In Conclusion

As mentioned before, the Jet Pilot lyrics meaning is very indirect. The song largely advises listeners to focus on learning and growing rather than fighting and destroying. Only through peace can human beings focus on the real philosophical issues that are still a mystery. Waging wars will decrease the likelihood of solving these mysteries, as it will take the lives of so many people who could have contributed to the world.

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