The song is a return to the overtly political lyrics that the Human League sometimes do, but dressed up to a poppy hook that makes it palatable to the public. Whereas "The Lebanon" of 1984 was the Human League’s view of the Israeli Invasion of Southern Lebanon and subsequent civil war, "Heart Like a Wheel" is supposedly a commentary on U.S. military imperialism. Callis's lyrics are suitably vague using references such as "sell your soul to a holy war". At a time when Jihad was all but unheard of in the West, it went over the heads of most of the song's listeners. 11 years after its release, the events of '9/11, followed by the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, would make the song seem written for that epoch. Although it is rarely something the band dwell on allowing people to read what they want into the lyrics.
Released in the UK in August 1990, "Heart Like a Wheel" reached number 29 in the UK and number 32 in the US. A decade after the release, the record is still popular, featuring in a number of third party remixes including some by William Orbit. Also the band frequently play the song live, as it is a very live-friendly track and although not one of their greatest hits, it is still very popular with audiences. Oakey also now often explains the political message to the audiences usually describing it "an anti-war song".