"Ribs" was written by Lorde (credited under her birth-name Ella Yelich-O'Connor) and Joel Little, with production, engineering, instrumentation and mixing handled by Little. It was recorded at Little's Golden Age Studios in Auckland. On 30 September 2013, "Ribs" was issued as a free promotional single via iTunes Stores.
Composition and writing
Lorde stated the song was inspired by ageing, which she described as "a big stress" of hers, and "this big party I had when my parents went away". "Ribs" was written on the day of the January 2013 Auckland Laneway Festival. "Ribs" is a deep house influenced electronica and electropop song which starts ambiently and, according to Jason Lipshutz of Billboard, features an "exhausted-sounding Lorde growing more frantic with each passing second", with lyrics that include the singer discovering her maturity and "grown-up problems". In "Ribs", she references the Broken Social Scene song "Lover's Spit".
Mike Wass of Idolator praised the song's "vulnerability" and called it an "obtuse offering". Lindsay Zoladz of Pitchfork Media opined that "Ribs" was the best song Lorde had written so far, particularly lyrically.
"Ribs" peaked at numbers 36 and 92 on the Australian and UK streaming charts respectively, and also reached number twenty-nine on the New Zealand singles chart. The single also charted on the United States Billboard Hot Rock Songs chart.
Lorde first performed "Ribs" and "400 Lux" at the Greenwich Village club Le Poisson Rouge. Lorde performed the song on 7 September 2013 at the Vector Arena during a free concert with 5000 seats. On 24 September 2013, she performed the track at The Fonda Theatre in Los Angeles, California. On 3 October 2013, Lorde held a concert at the Warsaw in Brooklyn and performed the song among other tracks from the album. On 26 November 2013, Lorde performed the song on the Late Show with David Letterman, backed by a drummer and a keyboard player. Canadian producer Ryan Hemsworth remixed the track and released it under the subtitle "Let's Have a Sleepover Version". Later, she sang the song at Coachella on April 16th, 2017. It appears on the setlist for Melodrama World Tour.