First Hit #1: October 14, 1972
Michael Jackson has grown as a vocalist since he was last spotted here. It hasn’t even been that long, but while I once thought he struggled to carry a slower, more adult song, with Ben he shows he’s developed as a singer and can do that material. Ben, a love letter to a pet – a rat, possibly a killer rat though I haven’t seen the film – is an interesting song since it could be easily be about a person rather than a pet – though the line about running here and there kind of indicates a pet. Sung by an adult, it probably wouldn’t work, since you would just assume that it’s about their boyfriend Ben, but since Jackson is still young enough that he still sounds like a child, it keeps that fundamental innocence it requires. It could be about any pet, because it captures that tie kids often have with the animal they love dearly. It hits on the right moment for the singer, he’s mature enough to sing it, but young enough that he’s suited for the material.