After the success of the band's debut album Emergency on Planet Earth, Jay Kay was eager to work on a follow-up. At the time, the band's drummer Nick van Gelder had been on holiday for longer than expected, which caused conflict between him and Kay. This led to Jamiroquai recruiting Derrick McKenzie who played with the band while recording the first track "Just Another Story" in one take for his audition. Kay became more confident with the band's new drummer and the recognition Jamiroquai had begun to receive. However, Kay suddenly fell into a sophomore slump which was worsened by his increasing drug use. The songwriting process was complex for the band, as Kay was often unhappy with the results and songs were often scrapped or rewritten. When the group presented Sony a few songs, the label told the band that "none of [them] sounded like singles". The band soon found their turning point when they wrote "Space Cowboy" which Kay called his "comeback anthem" and became the album's lead single. The writing of the song helped the band to finish the album, which Kay retrospectively called "one of our most creative and accomplished albums."
"Stillness in Time" was written when Kay was at his lowest point. He said that "the sweetness of [the song] was really wishful thinking; a hope that things would get better." "Half the Man" is about Kay's twin brother who died shortly after birth and also "doubles up really nicely as a love song"; The seventh track "Mr. Moon" tells of a girl who Kay met at a rave, but eventually ended up with the band's keyboardist Toby Smith. Kay praised Smith for his "incredibly complex chord structure[s]" in the song.
With the band's songwriting going back and forth between harder and softer songs, they shifted to writing the "very heavy [and aggressive]" songs "Light Years" and "The Kids". The latter track was meant to "[capture] the feeling of the streets[,]" and was about youth protests against the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act of 1994, a bill that outlaws unrestricted raves. The fifth track "Manifest Destiny", a mellow song with "a brass heavy coda[,]" was written when Kay read of the mistreatment and massacres of Native Americans. The ninth track "Morning Glory" was according to BBC Music, a "laid back, a blissed-out joy; perfect comedown music with percussion darting from speaker to speaker."
"The Kids" was released as the album's lead single on 30 June 1994, exclusively in Japan. The track was recorded shortly after the Emergency on Planet Earth sessions. "The Kids" was written and performed during the 1993 Emergency on Planet Earth tour. It may either have been an outtake from the album, or simply a song written after the album was fully produced and released. The live versions played during the tour had a different chorus when compared to the album version. After "The Kids" was recorded with previous drummer, Nick Van Gelder, Derrick McKenzie replaced Nick and the rest of the of the tracks were recorded with McKenzie on drums, aside from "The Kids".
"Space Cowboy" was released as the album's international lead single on 26 September 1994. The single peaked at #17 on the UK Singles Chart and was their first #1 on the U.S. Dance Chart. Two very distinct versions of the song exist. One was recorded with Stuart Zender on bass, has a greater tempo, and uses a 'bass slap' technique during the chorus. This version is commonly known as the "Stoned Again Mix", even though it is the original version. The second version, the one that appears on the album is considerably different, with a lower tempo, and a completely dissimilar bassline. The bass on the album version was not played by Zender, but by an unknown artist only credited as "Mr. X" in the booklet. Only recently Zender himself on Instagram has revealed that the bass player who played on the song is Paul Powell.[better source needed]
"Half the Man" was released as the album's third overall single on 7 November 1994. The track peaked at #15 on the UK Singles Chart. The song was featured on the soundtrack of cult British surf movie Blue Juice. The song gained recognition for its popular B-side, "Space Clav", which has never been included on any other Jamiroquai release. With the exception of its inclusion on both regular and deluxe Japanese pressings, it is one of nine singles that does not appear on the group's greatest hits album.
"Light Years" was released as the album's fourth overall single on 2 May 1995. The song did not chart on the UK Singles Chart due to little promotion of its release. In the United States, the song peaked at #6 on the U.S. Dance Chart. The American version of the single features three mixes of the song by David Morales. The American album release features a live version of "Light Years", performed in Marseille in December 1994, as a bonus track. Two main versions of the song exist - a radio edit, running at 3:59, and an album version, which lasts for 5:53.
"Stillness in Time" was released as the album's fifth overall single on 19 June 1995. The track peaked at #9 on the UK Singles Chart, making it the group's highest charting release to that date. The song was covered by Calvin Harris on the Radio 1 Established 1967 collection, which was released in 2007. Three versions of the track exist: a radio edit, which runs at 3:43, the album version, which runs at 4:11, and the vinyl version, which runs at 6:13. The music video strikes some similarities to the video for "Light Years", as they both feature Jamiroquai snowboarding down a mountain.
Missy Elliott and Chance the Rapper had both respectively sampled the track "Morning Glory" for 1997's "Bite Our Style (Interlude)" from Supa Dupa Fly and the 2015 song "Israel".2Pac had also sampled from the track "Manifest Destiny".
Rolling Stone wrote, "Jay Kay is a wonderfully nimble singer with a Stevie Wonder jones, and Jamiroquai parlay jazzy soul pop so tight it crackles... Nowadays, when most funk comes out of cans, Jamiroquai's live spark glows."Entertainment Weekly described the band as "a funk-making machine with a bright future in the past", while The Source said that they "may still be light years ahead of the hip-hop world."Q called the album an "ebullient follow-up" to Emergency on Planet Earth.Musician wrote that it "sounds like a bastard spawn of Stevie Wonder and Mandrill with its vintage keyboards, jazz harmonies and fondness for rambling, jam-oriented arrangements". Writing of the lyrics, Sonia Murray of The Atlanta Constitution opined that "Jamiroquai challenges our numb response to violence, the lure of material trappings, even 'the shame of [his] ancestry' with a spirit so unencumbered and personal that these searing messages feel like engaging talks over coffee." In a negative review, Mark Jenkins of The Washington Post described the album as "one of 1995's least digestible servings of leftovers."