The Miracles' original version of the song finds lead singer and co-writer Smokey Robinson courting a girl who, weary of the game of love, prefers to string her men along and not get romantically involved. Robinson "wants no part" in such a relationship, but promises that if the girl changes her mind, he'll be around ("If you feel like lovin' me/if you've got the notion/I second that emotion.")
The song was later covered by English New Wave band Japan which also proved a commercial success in the United Kingdom, climbing to #9 in the UK Singles Chart in July 1982. The Jerry Garcia Band frequently covered the song in concert. Part of the song was also used by the band Sublime at the end of "S.T.P." on the album Robbin' the Hood as a homage, though not covered in full.
On 18 June 2012, American Songwriter named "I Second That Emotion" its "Lyric of The Week". The publication wrote: the song “marches to the beat of its own drum, thanks to three stanzas of crafty doo-wop poetry and one punny one-liner — a malapropism, if you want to get technical — that never really loses its novelty appeal."
Episode 2 of the 2004 BBC miniseries Blackpool featured the Miracles version, accompanied onscreen by the characters singing and dancing, as part of the story.