Who better to have, er, judge the new season of American Idol than Simon Cowell, right? After all, you're guaranteed an honest critique. And what he has to say may surprise you. Well, some of it anyway.

"I personally think it is a better show than last year," Cowell tells Piers Morgan during an appearance on his CNN show airing next Monday. "It feels to me they've got their energy back, that they're confident, that they're competitive."

OK, now here's the part that won't exactly surprise you...

"It's not the show I would make myself, because that's why I moved from the show in the first place," admits Cowell, who wil be launching his own music competition program The X Factor in the U.S. later this year.

What's more, he reveals that toward the end of his run on A.I., the loss of fellow judge Paula Abdul and the decision to recruit folks like Kara DioGuardi and Ellen DeGeneres eventually created a "weird atmosphere."

"I always think of Idol really as me, Paula and Randy [Jackson]," says Cowell. "And I think when other people were brought in, and Paula wasn't there, it was, to me, like being on a different show."

That's the Simon we know and love!

Of course, "we" obviously doesn't include Elton John, who has been critical recently of talent shows—in particular, Cowell's original X Factor in the U.K.—of hurting the music industry.

"Well, look. This is somebody who charges what, a million dollars a private gig? Two million dollars, you know?" Cowell says about John. "I always want to say...'I tell you what, you just made a million dollars off your last private gig. Go and give it to a bunch of young musicians you care about, put them in the studio. Go and nurture them. Go and spend some time looking after them. Then I'll buy your argument.'"

Ouch. Sounds like someone just told John where he can stick his rocket, man.

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