After securing a recording contract with Columbia Records in 2012, MKTO began recording material for their self-titled debut album in 2013, with American singer-songwriter, Ne-Yo and Swedishrecord producer, Max Martin among some of their collaborators. "Classic" was eventually chosen as the follow-up to the duo's top ten hit, "Thank You" and released as the second single from their debut album in June 2013. In the lead-up to the single's release in the United States, MKTO served as the opening act for Emblem3 during their tour in the summer and also made a visit to the Billboard office, where they previewed tracks from their debut album, which had not yet been released at the time.
The song received positive reviews from critics and fans. BrentMusicReviews gave it 5/5 stars and called it "MKTO don’t reinvent the wheel, but deliver worthwhile pop music". Matt Collar from AllMusic gave a positive review and stated "Featuring the talents of actor/musicians Malcolm Kelly and Tony Oller, MKTO's full-length debut album, 2014's eponymous MKTO, is an exuberant and catchy mix of dancey, hip-hop-infused pop, rock, and R&B."
The song's accompanying music video was directed by Josh Forbes and released on June 20, 2013. In MKTO: The Making of Classic, the duo reveals that the video explores "bringing back the classic feel". Band member Tony Oller elaborates further by saying, "The whole concept is about going back in time and reliving those great classic moments".
"Classic" was a commercial success in Oceania, peaking at number-eight in New Zealand and number-nine in Australia, becoming the duo's second top ten hit in both nations. It has been certified Gold by Recorded Music NZ (RMNZ) for sales in excess of 7,500 copies and 2× Platinum by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA), denoting shipments in excess of 140,000 copies. In the United States, "Classic" debuted at number ninety-six on the US Billboard Hot 100, becoming MKTO's first single to chart in North America. It has since peaked at number-fourteen, becoming the group's first top twenty hit in the US. In addition to the Hot 100, "Classic" has also peaked at number-eight on the US Mainstream Top 40, becoming the duo's first top ten hit on this chart. In June 2014, the song surpassed the one million mark in digital sales and was subsequently certified Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).