I was thinking about this. It’s very hard, in my opinion, to write a “message song” without coming off as overly preachy or sentimental.
I think Luka, by Suzanne Vega is a decent example of a good song with a strong message that isn’t overly preachy. Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi,” is also a good example of a message song that doesn’t come off smacking of preachiness (is that a word? LOL)
So what are other “message songs” that you think are good without being overly preachy.
Can you give us some parameters for what makes a “message song”?
FWIW, I think “Luka” is kind of manipulative and doesn’t have much of a message, unless “child abuse is bad” counts as a message. And “BYT” seems to be a sort-of-preachy environmentalism song until you get to the last verse, which is about a love lost and lamented–so I’m not sure what the message is, although that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
It seems to me that most songs have some sort of message, whether obvious (“You’ve got to stand for something / Or you’re gonna fall for anything”) or arcane (“And if you listen very hard / the tune will come to you at last / when all are one and one is all / to be a rock and not to roll”) or in-between (“suddenly/I’m not half the man I used to be / there’s a shadow hanging over me / oh yesterday came suddenly”).
“Not preachy” seems to me to mean that a song’s quality is good, standing apart from the message it’s trying to convey.
Off the top of my head:
Signs (just too fun and frank to be accused of preachiness) The Magdalene Laundries- it’s heavy and accusatory, but honest and poetic in its brutality.
And even though it’s literally preaching, I really like Spirit in the Sky.