In his consumer guide for The Village Voice, Robert Christgau reviewed the song's 12-inch release in 1981 and gave it an A rating, indicating "a great record both of whose sides offer enduring pleasure and surprise." He dubbed it a "classic one-shot" and "the hottest r&b record in the city right now for two self-evident reasons", stating:
First is the beat, which is like what it says only deeper and more deliberate (in the drums and handclaps) with palpitations (provided by a slow-humping bass). Second is Taana, who'd combine the melodic dislocations of Esther Phillips and the girlish screech of Diana Ross if she had the technical control of either. Because she doesn't, she also recalls another timbre-sister, Shirley Goodman (of & Lee and 'Shame, Shame, Shame'). First I played the 6:30-minute 'party' version; now I prefer the 9:34-minute 'club' version. One-shot, eh?
Allmusic editor Andy Kellman found the song's rhythm "instantly memorable" and recognized its widespread sampling by hip hop producers, stating "Though hip hop fans are just as familiar with that bass line – often put to great use after its original recording — as rock fans are familiar with the guitar riffs of 'Purple Haze,' no song that has referenced 'Heartbeat' comes close to matching it." Kellman also writes that the song's "greatness comes down to Gardner’s vocals just as much as that rhythm", stating:
Her typically sweet delivery knows when to coo and when to growl at all the right moments, riding atop the wave of bass, drums, handclaps, and unobtrusive synth lines that twinkle and zap. Few vocal turns have conveyed the butterflies of love better than this one; in fact, the repeated refrain of 'Heartbeat, it makes me feel so weak' sticks in the head just as much as any other element of the song. Without a doubt – and with or without its status as a constant sampling source – 'Heartbeat' is one of the best pop singles of the ‘80s.
In 1990, Seduction recorded the song which along with the track "Heartbeat" peaked at number two on the dance charts. This version also peaked at number twenty-one on the soul chart and number thirteen on the Hot 100.