"Rope" had its origins during the Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace world tour, as frontman Dave Grohl played an acoustic guitar while waiting for the soundchecks or fly to the next city. After the tour ended in 2008, the song had its first version recorded during sessions at Grand Master Studios in Hollywood. It would later be brought into the Wasting Light songs which were recorded at Grohl's garage.
The song's unusual rhythms and angular chords have a distinct influence from Rush as well as Led Zeppelin's album Presence, which Grohl declared "may be my favourite album of theirs". The main progression of chords is a flat seventh, a fourth and a minor third, warrant guitarist Chris Shiflett to comment that "What my guitar is doing over the bass makes no sense in a way. It does, but you don't know how." The intro is a sequence of minor sevenths with a sus four, going from B minor to D, which Shiflett stated was "kind of illogical, in a way, to your ear", and Grohl himself compared to Television and Mission of Burma.
The single premiered on radio on February 23, 2011 and was officially released on March 1, 2011. The song was only released as a digital download single and no physical CD single was actually released. However, a 12-inch vinyl single was released on May 9, 2011.
Canadian electronic producer deadmau5 produced a popular remix of the song that was released separately as part of the deadmau5 Mix Edits EP. It was made available digitally on April 14. The Foo Fighters performed the remix version at the 54th Grammy Awards with deadmau5, along with "Walk".
The first televised performance of the single was part of a Foo Fighters set at the 2011 NME Awards, at which the band was present for Dave Grohl to collect the 'Godlike Genius' award.
The music video, directed by Dave Grohl himself, was shot entirely in VHS, and shows the Foo Fighters performing inside a white cube set built inside a soundstage in Los Angeles. The "tight, claustrophobic space" was inspired by Grohl's garage, where Wasting Light was recorded.
The music video made its worldwide premiere live from a MTV.com contest winner's house in Los Angeles, CA. An MTV and fan interview from the same house was conducted after the premiere, followed by a Twitter "question and answer" portion.
On its review of "Rope", Rolling Stone said the single "rides lower to the ground that the usual Foos anthem, especially during the gnarled-guitar fire-fight at the end, without undercutting the modern-rock heroism that's become one of the few reliable guitar-based brands on contemporary radio."Billboard described the song as having "a meaty guitar lick that sounds ripe for Rock Band, a rip-roaring extended instrumental solo and a few choice "Yow!"s from frontman Dave Grohl", praising the "raw, hard-hitting focus" and concluding that "'Rope' makes the listener feel like it's 1995 all over again."
"Rope" was nominated for "Best Rock Track" at the 2011 Teen Choice Awards, and Deadmau5' remix was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Remixed Recording, Non-Classical. It placed at No. 63 on the Australian Triple J Hottest 100, 2011, the world's largest annual music poll.