Day 18: John DiBiase's Top 20 Favorite Audio Adrenaline Songs
I had originally considered to do a Top 20 Audio Adrenaline songs list at one point, but my feelings on the band as whole have sadly soured a little (AKA The wind had been knocked out of my proverbial sails) after the recent "reboot" of the band. In my personal opinion and feelings, it's soiled their good name and legacy. And while some decent-to-good music has been created after their initial reboot, to me, Audio Adrenaline still ended in 2007 with their final show and Mark Stuart's retirement as their lead singer.
I decided to work on a Top 20 list after a JFH reader asked about it via Twitter. So, without further ado, these are my personal Top 20 favorite Audio Adrenaline songs since their debut album on through till the bonafide version of the band called it quits nine years ago, in 2007. Also, the songs aren't in any particular order, but I did try to put my most favorites near the top... -- John DiBiase, JFH Founder / Editor / Etc
1. "Tremble" (2001)
"And I beckon You for mercy / And I beckon You to forgive everything that Iíve ever done / And I tremble"
I'm not a fan of most worship music. It's not really the lyrics or message as much as it is the style of music. (And most of it sounds the same to me, and largely uninspired.) I've loved Mark Stuart's vocals since I first got into Audio Adrenaline in 1994, so to hear his voice sing worship music on their 2001 album Lift--and outside the style of what is "typical" for the "genre" of worship music--was just ear (and heart) candy to me. "Tremble" is probably still my favorite Audio Adrenaline song, my favorite worship song, and one of my all-time favorite songs, period. It's to the point where I don't listen to it a ton because I want it to remain special. From the contemplative instrumentation, to the overall vibe of it just being you and Jesus in a one-on-one meet, I just love this song (especially listening to it with headphones in a quiet setting). To me, it's perfect.
2. "We're A Band" (1993)
"Freak / Is what the world calls me / They don't understand / So they try to stop me / Hide! / I can't hide / So I stand up straight with Christ by my side "
Two years before DC Talk's "Jesus Freak" came out, Audio Adrenaline was self-labeling us believers as what the world saw us as - freaks. But as a 14-year-old discovering this album (Don't Censor Me) in 1994, it just hit all the right notes with me. Seeing an interview with Audio Adrenaline on a video show called "Signal Exchange," along with the music video for "Big House," convinced me to finally check out this album, and I quickly fell in love. On October 16, 1994, I saw my first-ever real concert, and it was Out of Eden opening up for headliner Audio Adrenaline... and the rest was history for me as an AudioA fan and avid concert attender. "We're A Band," with all of its sort of corniness, just rocked and was always a really fun one live.
3. "Will Not Fade" (2001)
"What I am / And who I am / Is never going to change"
As a believer, this is a powerful anthem. The band seldom played it live because it actually was tough for Mark to hit the higher vocal range, but I did at least hear it once live and it was pretty awesome. It's a great rocker and one of those rare times when a truly excellent new song was added to a hits record. Hit Parade contained some of the band's best songs--and then you had two new ones that felt right at home with the other highlights.
4. "I'm Not The King" (1996)
"I'm just a fraction of a thing, yeah / I am not anything without the King of Kings"
I'll never forget, before Bloom released in early 1996, hearing a clip of this on their official website for the first time. It was before I started JFH, it was before music could be purchased online... it was back before labels and artists knew what to do with the internet. But I remember hearing this song and just loving the rawness of the music and the boldness of the lyrics. It's a killer song, and still one of my favorites.
5. "Clap Your Hands (Pre-Release Version)" (2005)
In 2005, Audio Adrenaline released their final studio album. At the time, no fans knew it would be their last, but given the way the album was made up, there was a pretty good chance the end was nigh. You see, vocalist Mark Stuart had an ailment with his vocal chords that was causing him to lose his voice over time. You can really hear it on this record, too. But guitarist Tyler Burkum, whose voice was decent but not as distinctive as Stuart's, started taking over lead vocal duties. It was less noticeable on their 2001 album, Lift, although it was quite frequent, but Burkum really started stepping up on the band's 2003 album, Worldwide ("Leaving Ninety-Nine" is a good example). To be 100% honest with you, I remember listening to the Until My Heart Caves In pre-release for the first time in 2005 and just hating it. It didn't sound much like the AudioA I loved to me, and Stuart was barely on the record. But, over time, especially after the realization that this was their final full-length album of new music, I grew to appreciate a lot of the songs. (Hearing the songs live helped a lot, too.) On their tour for this album, as well as most shows after this record released, the band would open with "Clap Your Hands." Like "We're A Band," it's not a very deep song, but it's an awesome live moment, and a fun song overall. I chose the "Pre-Release" version here, because the album version actually cut out part of Mark's vocals in the track (I have no idea why; omitting them adds nothing). To me, this version is the only one there is.
6. "Ocean Floor" (2001)
"Your sins are forgotten / They're on the bottom / Of the ocean floor"
I can't believe I almost forgot to include this one. I'll never forget driving to my day job in 2001, listening to the pre-release for the first time on my car stereo. I can picture where I was, too, as I made a righthand turn on to the street that the office building was on, and I heard the words from this song and my eyes just teared up. The blessing and gift of hearing some music before it's released is not having any other context for it. Few others have heard it or have talked about it, so it's just completely new and sometimes deeply personal to listen to it for the first time. This song was just so special to me. I also remember seeing the band perform live before Lift released--but after getting the pre-release--and shouting from the crowd for them to play this song. Mark, not knowing who was asking to hear it, just shouted back "How do you know about that? That's top secret stuff?!" Tyler then performed the chorus for us before the band went on with the rest of their set. The song ended up being huge, even getting its radio mix tacked on to their 2003 studio album, Worldwide, and its personal feeling had worn off a bit after a while, but it's still a wonderful song and a personal favorite.
7. "Underdog" (1999)
"Been beat up / Been broken down / Nowhere but up when you're face down on the ground / I'm in last place if I place at all / But there's hope for this underdog! "
This was the album that had won my love for Audio A back after the underwhelming Some Kind of Zombie in 1997. It wasn't that Zombie was a bad record; I'd just found myself connecting with other music more, and my passion for Audio Adrenaline had briefly cooled a bit. "Underdog," however, was just one of those songs that summed up how I felt in life. And it's super fun too.
8. "Speak To Me" (2001)
"Speak to me / And tell me all the things I need to know / I want to hear You now / Can You speak to me / Iíve opened up Your Word to free me / I want to hear You now"
One of the many songs that arrested my heart on Lift, "Speak To Me" has always captured how I long to hear God's voice to guide me. Since I'm being especially frank with all of these Top 20 callbacks that we're doing, I'll admit I have always had a hard time discerning His voice. Some claim it's really easy or that they hear Him all the time, but I find it really hard to slice through the noise to get to His words. Another thing I love about this song is that it's a prayer set to music. It's an excellent plea for when you're sitting down to read the Word in your personal time, "Iíve opened up Your Word to free me." I just love it.
9. "Chevette" (1997)
"No A.C. No FM, And no regrets, in my Chevette. "
I've never owned a Chevette. And, heck, I couldn't even drive in 1997. But I do think my first car, in 1999, had "window cranks" (I know the used minivan I had after that definitely did). This song was just another one of those catchy rockers that was super fun to experience live. Gosh, I miss this band's live show...
10. "Never Gonna Be As Big As Jesus" (1996)
"I could be anything I wanted to / I could be anything but one thing's true / Never gonna be as big as Jesus"
This is a super fun and catchy song with a memorable music video (of the guys performing in an elevator, no less). It's also a simple reminder of fame not being important in our lives, and that nothing compares to Jesus.
11. "This Is Everything" (2001)
"This is all / This is everything / This is everything I've got"
Surrender. I'm terrible at letting certain things go and relinquishing control--or heartache or whatever it is I need to let go--to God. I love how this song is just so simple; it's beautiful, but the chorus is so simple. It's a fantastic song to sing while imagining yourself giving it all over to Jesus in surrender.
12. "Glory" (2001)
"I long to walk hand in hand down a golden road with Father / Where choirs of angels praise His name and I want to learn / To sing glory, to sing glory / And I canít find the words to say / Life gets in the way / Lord You know my heartís desire"
Lift has so many songs that illustrate trying to convey a heart for worship when you struggle to make that your default mode. Let's face it, a response of "worship" in every situation in life is not natural for us carnal creatures. How many times my heart has ached as I sing along to the words, "I long to walk hand in hand down a golden road with Father. Where choirs of angels praise His name and I want to learn. To sing glory." Man... I get chills just typing this out. This is easily another foremost worship anthem for me. How it didn't get more attention, I'll never understand.
13. "Righteous Rocker #3" (1995)
"Without love you ain't nothing, without love"
This is actually a cover of a Larry Norman song from a tribute compilation in 1995, honoring the "father of Christian rock" himself. After Don't Censor Me and before Bloom, the raw rock sounds of this cover song alluded to the rawer production that Bloom would display after the poppy sounds of Censor. It's also just a super fun song and a memorable Audio A track.
14. "One Like You" (2001)
"You forget / That I fall apart somtimes / I cave in I remember it well / But You never bring it back again / So I sing / Sing a song from this mountaintop I'm on..."
The other new song on Hit Parade was this little gem. It's catchy, it's Bloom-esque, and it's got a great, worshipful vulnerability.
15. "Until My Heart Caves In" (2005)
"I will sing your name / Until my heart caves in"
After my initial disappointment over Until My Heart Caves In wore off and the album grew on me, the anthemic title track took on more meaning... especially since it was one of the band's last songs. And, even till this day, it remains an encouraging anthem for perseverance.
16. "Mighty Good Leader" (1999)
"Flooded by an ocean Of some mixed emotions / They got you down again... Help is on the way / A mighty good leader is on the way"
This one was a great live rocker and a fantastic way to open up their 1999 album, Underdog. It's also just a fun way to be encouraged that our Savior is just a prayer away.
17. "King" (2005)
"You are my King / I bow down before You and crown You the King of all Kings"
Tyler sings this one, and the lyrics are relatively simple, but it's a great worship song, and one that still resonates today.
18. "Good Life" (1999)
"This is the good life / I've lost everything I could ever want And ever dream of / This is the good life / I found everything I could ever need Here in Your arms"
The band wrote this song after losing a friend to cancer, but this song is a constant reminder that He gives and He takes away. We'll always see dark days, but we need to remember that blessings come in trials (even though it's hard to see that in the midst of them), and that He's here to carry us through. It's a beautiful song.
19. "Don't Censor Me" (1993)
"I'm the salt of the earth / the city on a hill / My light's twice as bright / I'm gonna show you something real / So Don't censor me"
I always loved the beat and groove of this song, but for a 14-year-old introvert with a timid, wallflower personality, this was an awesome anthem for being bold. It also offers a lot of truth; in a world where our Savior's name is widely used as a profanity, it's amazing how the message of the love of Jesus is censored and maligned while so much more vile messages get through.
20. "Secret" (1996)
"I once was lost in a foaming, roaming, rabid sea / then blooms blossomed, changed my outlook, now I've been set free"
"Secret," thematically, seems a bit like a sequel to "Don't Censor Me." It's killer album opener, too. The chorus ("I've got a secret and I cannot keep it") sounds corny out of context, but the way it fits into the song, and the way Stuart shouts it, works exceptionally well. What's funny to note, too, is that Bloom released the same day as Newsboys' Take Me To Your Leader, and BOTH albums opened with a song with the same theme of not keeping the message of Jesus a secret (Newsboys' "God is Not a Secret").
I know some of you are wondering why "Big House" isn't on this list. But while I do like the song, it's not one of my favorites. However, other meaningful songs that were in the running were "Rest Easy," "Scum Sweetheart" (while it's about the world, to me it was about that "evil" ex-girlfriend ;) ), "Some Kind of Zombie," "Worldwide (One and Two)," "Who Do You Love," "Undefeated," "It's Over," "See Through," and that live staple in their Don't Censor Me days, "If You're Happy and You Know It" (which was also captured on Live Bootleg).