The promotional single is the only release by Tool that was released on Freeworld Entertainment label, the label being in business only for a short time. Zoo Entertainment, Tool's label until 1996 was dissolved in early 1997 by its new owners Volcano Entertainment. Following that, Volcano Entertainment was briefly renamed Freeworld Entertainment from sometime late in 1997 until Zomba purchased the company in 1998 and changed the name back to Volcano. Though the label released a number of albums and singles by other artists on its roster, the "Forty-Six & 2" promo is the only release featuring Tool.
Popular belief dictates that the song title references an idea first conceived by Carl Jung and later expounded upon by Drunvalo Melchizedek concerning the possibility of reaching a state of evolution at which the body would have two more than the normal 46 total chromosomes and leave a currently disharmonious state. The premise is that humans would deviate from the current state of human DNA which contains 44 autosomes and 2 sex chromosomes. The next step of evolution would likely result in human DNA being reorganized into 46 and 2 chromosomes, according to Melchizedek.
Furthermore, it is believed the song references a wish to experience change through the "shadow"; an idea which represents the parts of one's identity that one hates, fears, and represses, this exists as a recurring theme in the work of Carl Jung.
The song is mostly in 4/4 time with some sections of 7/8 in between. In the intro, Danny Carey plays 4 measures of 7/8 on his ride cymbal over the rest of the band playing in 4/4, and they all meet up on the downbeat of the 5th measure in 4/4. During the bridge there are 3 measures of 7/8 followed by one measure of 4/4. During a particular quad fill, the drums are in 3/8, the guitar plays one measure of 9/8 followed by one in 5/8 all while the bass keeps time in 7/8.