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Elton John Calls Today's Songwriters 'Pretty Awful'

The Rock Hall great also takes aim at 'American Idol,' labeling TV competitions 'arse-paralysingly brain crippling'

October 19, 2010 1:00 PM ET

Elton John, someone who knows a thing or two about songwriting after collaborating for more than four decades with Bernie Taupin and, recently, Leon Russell, has taken a shot at contemporary songwriters.

Elton told the Radio Times in a new interview, "Songwriters today are pretty awful, which is why everything sounds the same. Contemporary pop isn't very inspiring." While Elton admitted that he is a fan of Lily Allen, Amy Winehouse and Lady Gaga (whom he performed with at the Grammys), he insisted that it's "important they write their own songs, so they're not at the mercy of anyone."

Before Lady Gaga: Madonna, Elton John and Other Monster Influences

Elton, who was reportedly courted by American Idol to fill the holes at their judges' table, also lashed out against reality singing competitions. "I'm not a fan of talent shows. I probably wouldn't have lasted if I'd gone on one," John said. "Also, I don't want to be on television. It's become boring, arse-paralyzingly brain crippling. I like Simon Cowell, but what he does is TV entertainment."

Idol executive producer Nigel Lythgoe made several attempts to bring the legendary piano man on board, even admitting that "I must say, I really do love Elton John," but the singer said he declined "because I won't slag anyone off."

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Song Stories

“American Girl”

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers | 1976

It turns out that a single with "American" in its title--recorded on the Fourth of July during the nation's Bicentennial, no less--can actually sell better in Britain. Coupled with the Heartbreakers' flair for Byrds jangle and Animals hooks, though, is Tom Petty's native-Florida drawl that keeps this classic grounded at home. Petty dispelled rumors that the song was about a suicidal student, explaining that the inspiration came from when he was 25 and used to salute the highway traffic outside his apartment window. "It sounded like the ocean to me," he recalled. "That was my ocean. My Malibu. Where I heard the waves crash, but it was just the cars going by."

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