This first 45 from the album became a big hit for Summer in the United States, peaking at number 3 on the Hot 100 singles chart and reaching number 2 in Cash Box magazine as well. It was Summer's eleventh single to sell over a million copies in the US. In Canada, the song spent four weeks at number 4. A 12" promotional single was issued, however, unlike all her Top 40 hits prior to this one, it was not an extended version.
"The Wanderer" incorporates heavy new wave styled synth riffs and a shuffling beat. Vocally, it was a return to her understated 1975 debut sound - soft, whispery phrases were the norm in this song, taking on an almost Elvis Presley effect, instead of the power belt she had used often since her 1977 album Once Upon a Time and 1978 single "Last Dance".