Prior to its release, Horan discussed the song in an interview with Mikey Piff on Sirius XM. The singer said that after listening to some of the material he had recorded for his debut album, he wanted to add "a bit more grit, funk and heavier bass." At the time he was listening to late 1970s and early 1980s music. "When Don Henley went solo in the early Eighties, he just kinda had this funky kind of feel to it – heavy bass, heavy guitar – so I just thought, 'Let's give this a crack,'" Horan said of making the track. "I wanted it to be a little bit cheeky with the lyric." About the concept, he explained it is set in a bar and the song's theme changes up stereotypical roles. "The first line is 'As long as we should take this back to my place' – and usually that's what the guy would say, but we flipped it that the girl would say that, and that's what she said right to my face."
In Billboard, Taylor Weatherby noted "Slow Hands" focuses on a "funkier guitar vibe", compared to Horan's previous single "This Town." She also opined "the subtly-sexy song" shows an "edgier side of Niall." Colin Stutz from the publication, added, "The combination of a thumping beat and Horan's raspy vocals makes the song hardly even sound like the same guy who sang ["This Town"]. But what "Slow Hands" shows is that Horan definitely won't just be sticking to the sweet singer-songwriter sound on his solo debut."
In The Irish Times, Jennifer Gannon wrote that it’s no radical departure, Niall hasn’t decided to go Gaga but it’s a step in a more Sheeran-style, crowd-pleasing direction. A gentle, foot-stomper about a lady with a magic touch, a lady who knows what she wants, she wants to get her hands all over Niall’s "dirty laundry" and not in a bringing your washing home on a Sunday way. This isn’t Timberlake’s Sexy Back, it’s Horan’s Sweaty Back.
Horan has performed "Slow Hands" on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. On 29 May 2017, the singer performed "Slow Hands", "This Town" and premiered the track "On the Loose" on The Today Show.