Following the commercial failures of their previous albums and singles, there was doubt over whether the Black Eyed Peas would continue to record together. A&R executive Ron Fair approached them and suggested a crossover to a more mainstream pop sound. will.i.am in particular resisted the idea for fear that they would be seen as sellouts. However, after discussions and some writing sessions, the idea was pursued.
Shortly after Christmas 2001, will.i.am created a loop and a guitar part that he liked. Taboo and apl.de.ap also heard the track and were able to write similar lyrics over it. Justin Timberlake was allegedly introduced to the band by new band member Fergie, and got a chance to hear the track that will.i.am created. Impressed with the music, Timberlake helped write and sing the chorus.
Timberlake was in the midst of promotion of his debut album, Justified, and his label Jive Records was concerned about possible overexposure. The Peas were worried about this, as getting some assistance from an established pop star like Timberlake had been the original point of this song. A compromise was reached eventually in which Jive gave clearance for the vocals of Timberlake to be released on the song, but he does not appear in the song's music video nor is he officially credited on the song as an artist. The song has so far sold 954,000 digital copies.
On May 12, 2013 after 10 years since the song's release, the song re-entered the official UK singles charts at 40, eventually peaking at 35. The apparent reason for the re-entry is the popularity of the song in airplay and purchase in the aftermath of the retirement of Manchester United football club's manager Alex Ferguson. He is known as Fergie, as is this song's co-vocalist and Black Eyed Peas member Fergie Duhamel.
The music video for "Where Is the Love?" was shot in East Los Angeles and features the Black Eyed Peas and various other people, including various young children, asking the world where the love really is. In the video, will.i.am and Taboo act as a soul music road duo who use music to tell people what is wrong with the world, Fergie appears as a peacemaker who places stickers with question marks on them all over the place to ask people where the love is in the world, and apl.de.ap is a criminal who is arrested for using criminal offences to tell people the truth. Justin Timberlake does not appear in the video, although several different people are seen mouthing the chorus as he sings it.
The video is similar to a 2002 British television advertisement for T-Mobile, in which a face of a young baby is presented in various forms around a large city, much like the question mark in this video. The Bon Jovi music video "Have a Nice Day" is also similar to both the advertisement and this video. The video features gameplay footage of the graphically explicit and controversial video game Postal 2, in which a group of young children are playing the game. This suggests that violence in the media and entertainment industry affects the morals of children.
The Voice UK contestant Frances Wood sang the song at her audition and chose will.i.am to be her mentor.
Japanese pop singer Sho Sakurai (Arashi) re-wrote the rap lyrics in Japanese and performed his cover version at his solo concert in 2006.
At the Mnet Asian Music Awards (commonly abbreviated as MAMA) promotional held in Singapore in 2011, will.i.am apl.de.ap performed the song with friend and collaborator, K-pop vocalist and rapper CL of 2NE1 performing Taboo and Fergie's part.
The X Factor Israel contestant Inbal Bibi sang the song at the live shows and received positive reviews.