"The Last Song" was written by Nick Wheeler and Tyson Ritter. According to Ritter, after breaking up with his girlfriend, he "got inspired to write something that wasn't about an all-girl topic", he explained, "[it's] about leaving your town and making something of yourself. Every other song [on the band's self-titled debut] is about one girl, so to put a song on the album that wasn't about her, that made it a little extra special."
"The Last Song" begins with the sound of a radio in mid-tune, followed by a string arrangement that slips into a chugging guitar line with the help of an electronic segue. Ritter doesn't really know how or why he and Wheeler came up with the distinct structure that's unlike anything else on the album. "it just comes out of nowhere," and "when two songwriters get into the studio, you don't know what the hell is going to come out. It's just one of the many surprises, like stuttering electronic beats, flourishes of majestic organs and a dance-inspired thump, that pepper the album."
Ritter also commented that "The Last Song" is his favorite song off of the band's debut album.
The song received mixed reviews from music critics. JoeUser said "Ritter experiences relief of being out of a loveless relationship. But even though he acts like he won't miss her, he will. Usually break-up songs focus on what led to the ending of it. However, Ritter discusses what he feels like a year after it's over. The All-American Rejects deserve a second chance at radio, considering they write layered "punk"-rock songs other bands avoid."musicOMH stated "'The Last Song' is very much the slice of teen heartache that 'Swing, Swing' was. It lacks, however, the catchy hook or sing-along chorus. The band chug their way through a pop-punk ditty that simply won't match their previous success, and, unfortunately, that only fans will remember the track seems a distinct likelihood."
Rockfeedback rated the song 3 out of 5 stars and reviewed saying that the song is "convenient" and "[the band's] Pretty In Pink-soundtrack, signature-riffage is evident yet again on the Rejects' "The Last Song"; poppy, melodic, 80's fun, scattered with tales of rejection, break-up and sceptical self-analysis. This is four minutes of unstoppably lurching melodies and soppy, accompanying lyrics This may be the last thing I write for love' simply curdling the sickly sweet taste in your mouth. Another hit no doubt.CityLife describes the track as "About half way between Busted and Limp Bizkit on the "turn that bloody racket down" scale." and commented saying "After the slow, considered start it quickly descends into something much more apt for fans of the skate punk sound. But at the same time it manages to maintain a respectable feel."
The music video for "The Last Song" was directed by Charles Jensen and shot in April 2003 in Pasadena, California and was released the following month on May 13. It involves the band first driving around an abandoned city, then performing the song in the middle of the Rose Bowl Stadium without an audience. Shots of each band member - appearing to be enjoying the isolation - are overlapped through the video; lead guitarist Nick Wheeler is seen in a grocery store - roaming the isles with a trolley and putting any food he can gain to it - and consuming some of the groceries, while rhythm guitarist Mike Kennerty and drummer Chris Gaylor leisure in a golf park in easy chairs with refreshments and lead vocalist and bassist Tyson Ritter ditches his car for a convertible and performs doughnuts in a parking lot. Towards the end of the video, people appear at the locations of where each band member is, all looking bewildered to what they are doing.
According to Ritter, the plot of the video is about "leaving home to encompass a much broader concept: the rest of the world leaving them. It's a dream come true for every child who's ever imagined they were the last ones on Earth. Without anyone to stop them."
"I race a car around like hell, and do doughnuts in the parking lot," he continues, "It's this badass car, like a '73 cherry-red convertible Ford Mustang. I couldn't believe it ... I got to tear ass in a hot rod. I worked with a stuntman, but my dad used to drag cars, so I know how to drive all right, so he just let me do what I want. It was crazy, man. I couldn't believe the DreamWorks reps let me do that, 'cause I was doing some crazy shit. It was awesome."