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The Meaning of 311’s “Amber”

311 live in Ohio in 2010.

“Amber” by 311 is a classic summertime anthem that conjures a vibe with reggae-infused rock while frontman Nick Hexum sings of the special amber-colored energy of the woman he loves. The track appeared on 311’s 2001 album From Chaos, and has proven to be their longest-lasting success to date, still in heavy rotation on warm-weather playlists everywhere.

At the time when Hexum wrote “Amber”, he was engaged to the Hawaiian actress and singer Nicole Scherzinger, who was then a member of Eden Crush but later rose to fame with The Pussycat Dolls.

Many fans of the band assume that the lyrics are written about her, with the chorus describing her aura as being amber-colored:

Whoa, amber is the color of your energy
Whoa, shades of gold display naturally

Chorus to “Amber” by 311.

As a color, amber is a mixture of orange and yellow, giving off a nectary tone that is bold and radiant:

The color amber. Source: Canva

The meaning of an amber energy is quite subjective, and varies depending on who imagines it.

To me, an amber energy brings to mind the comforting presence of warm sunshine. This is an inspiring presence that makes one feel at ease, and when Hexum sings “shades of gold display naturally,” this also inspires a feeling of awe.

Amber is also what forms from dried tree resin, and which is where the name of the color actually originated from. This resin has long been associated with magic and spirituality, since long before 311 wrote their song.

This resin often contains bugs and other remains, which are often preserved quite well. This connects the color with nature and led many ancient cultures to believe that animals became amber after their deaths.

Famous book-turned-movie Jurassic Park also capitalized on amber by using a mosquito embedded in fossilized amber as the introduction to the crux of the story: the revival of dinosaurs.

In ancient Greece and Rome, women wore jewelry infused with amber as they believed it would help promote fertility.

Promotional single art for “Amber”.

311 draws a connection to ancient Greece in the “Amber” lyrics, with a line that appears in the third and final verse:

Launched a thousand ships in my heart so easy
Still it’s fine from afar
And you know that

Third verse to “Amber” by 311.

When Hexum sings of launching a thousand ships in his heart, he is referencing the English idiom “the face that launched a thousand ships.” The line is originally about Helen of Troy, whose face was so beautiful that a massive war started over it.

Today this idiom is used to describe a person who is overwhelmingly beautiful, and 311 uses it in this way to sing about a lover with an amber-colored energy.

“Amber” was released along with a music video that features none other than Nicole Scherzinger, further contributing to the fan theory about the lyrics being written about her.

While they may have originally been written about Scherzinger, she is certainly not the only woman who has this kind of soothing aura.

In this way, 311’s “Amber” can be interpreted to be about all interpersonal relationships, and encountering someone whose very presence makes the challenges of everyday life much easier to handle.

Watch the music video for “Amber” by 311 below.