“Phony people come to pray, look at all of them beg to stay, phony people come to pray.”
Lost in Hollywood serves as the closing track to System of a Down’s fifth studio album Mesmerize. Known for their politically charged lyrics, on this track the band offers a more philosophical lament for the broken dreams of those who dream of being a Hollywood star. Seeking fame and fortune, they instead find a superficial and exploitative industry only interested in how much they can get out of someone before casting them aside.
Having grown up in downtown Hollywood, guitarist and vocalist Daron Malakian describes how he would see those who had come hoping to change their lives and pity the reality of what they found.
“I was standing on the wall feeling ten feet tall, all you maggots smoking fags on Santa Monica Boulevard.”
The song can be seen as a damning critique of the Hollywood industry of the time particularly in relation to how top stars, especially women, are sexualised far beyond what any normal person ever is. The value of people is based on how much money can be made off them and nothing else matters.
“They take you and make you, they look at you in disgusting ways.”
Hollywood represents a holy land where worshipers must come and show reverence if they are to be rewarded whose allure and temptation are too much to resist.
“Phony people come to pay, look at all of them, back to stay phony people come to pray.”
While Hollywood may have changed in the 15 years since the song’s release with social campaigns such as the #metoo movement bringing to light the abuse and exploitation culture of Hollywood, the promise of fame and fortune remains, but one which nowadays no longer requires a trip to Hollywood. Social media giants such as Instagram now offer you the same opportunity from the comfort of your bedroom but the price to be paid is still the same.
“They find you to time you, say you’re the best they’ve ever seen.”
Stardom is now sought through clicks, likes, followers, retweets with shameless self-promotion serving as the means to achieve the dreams of fame and fortune for those who can amass the most. While the paradigm may have changed, the ugly workings behind it remain the same as exploitation, manipulation and an ever shortening 15 minutes of fame remain ever present.
“I’ll wait here, you’re crazy those vicious streets are filled with strays.”
Much like the reality for many who go to Hollywood, the superficial world of social media fame sees many who try, fail, leaving behind unfulfilled aspirations of long and fulfilling careers as stars. The final words of the song sound a warning to those believing in these promises.
“You should have never trusted Hollywood”