The Real Thing was originally intended to be a "Brazilian-type" record. However, when Vanessa Williams contacted Babyface for the album production, it was revealed the album would have a more R&B sound. She considered the album a combination of different influences, such as classical, jazz and Latin music.The Real Thing was also produced by Keith Thomas, Rob Mathes and Rex Rideout, and features songs written by Stevie Wonder, Bill Withers, Bebel Gilberto, Phil Galdston, and Babyface. When asked about the album style, Williams said:
"Yes, for me this is kind of a reflective record. [...] You know, I'm in my mid-forties; I've been divorced twice; I've raised four children; I'm a career woman... So it is a kind of look at love from all those different female perspectives. [...] 'The Real Thing' represents the promise of being back with a lover; 'October Sky' is a break-up song… Plus, with me being an actor who's also a singer, my favourite songs to sing are always those that tell a story. Because, when I go into the studio, I do kind of approach everything as an actor. [...] So, in that way, I do think all the songs on 'The Real Thing' either have some deep storyline, or can give an effect of a character at a particular time in a particular place."