The music starts off at 70 bpm with an acoustic guitar playing a distinctive, sad-sounding melody over arpeggiated guitar chords, followed by the verse.
After the verse, the music's tempo considerably picks up to 200 bpm (with a time signature of 6/4), in sync with the action of the battle. An extended Spanish-tinged acoustic guitar solo plays over strings and heavy percussion, lending a rather romantic and exciting feel to the piece.
The music then rests momentarily, before continuing with a faster tempo (201bpm), in a reprise of the opening melody in a fast-paced string arrangement.
Musically, the intro and first part of the verse are in B minor, with a key change to D minor occurring halfway through the first verse (at the line "Black the beast..."). The majority of the solo stays in the key of D minor, but the song momentarily returns to its original key at the beginning of the 'reprise' section, before again changing to D minor.
The verse and reprise sections are in 4/4 time (at different tempos), with the solo in 6/4 time.
The opening melody is a leitmotif of sorts for Ruby, and arrangements of it can be found in many places on the RWBY Volume 1 Soundtrack, especially during scenes focusing on the character.
Red like roses fills my dreams and brings me to the place you rest.
White is cold and always yearning, burdened by a royal test.
Black the beast descends from shadows.
Yellow beauty burns gold.
- The lyrics indirectly describe the four main characters as Red, White, Black and Yellow.
- "Red Like Roses Part II", another song on the RWBY: Volume 1 Soundtrack, is a thematic follow-up to this song, specifically the Red verse. The song plays as Ruby decapitates the Nevermore in "Players and Pieces".
- An instrumental version of "Red Like Roses" can be heard throughout "RWBY: Grimm Eclipse" in the background.
- Judging from "Red Like Roses Part II" and Jeff Williams' explanation of that song, the first verse of the lyrics may be a reference to Ruby and the death of Summer Rose.
- "Red like roses" is a reference to blood.
- "Fills my dreams" means that Ruby dreams about the day that Summer died.
- "And brings me to the place you rest" means the memory causes her to revisit Summer's grave.
- The song has been referenced twice so far in RWBY Chibi.