Saadiq explained on his record label's website that this song showed his deep connection to The Temptations. He explained: "The vocal has a David Ruffin 'feel': I pictured how it was when Eddie Kendricks, Paul Williams and the guys in the Temps were first introduced to the world. I looked at a lot of their album covers so I could immerse myself in the characters. I think of the track as vintage Motown with a Stax guitar line factored in... it's like a melting pot of the two sounds."
Veteran Motown percussionist Jack Ashford played on this track. Saadiq recalled to The Guardian April 24, 2009: "Jack played the bells. He was supposed to play a different line, but he did his own thing, and it was magical. When you've got a veteran in the room, you don't say anything."
"Islands in the Stream" was originally written by The Bee Gees as an R&B song. It was originally written by the brothers for Marvin Gaye, however it was recorded instead as a duet by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton with the Gibb Brothers also contributing vocals.