Billy Joel vs. Elton John

Both 70s-80s piano guys, both have sold hundreds of millions of records, both have won many Grammy awards.

So…the Piano Man or the Rocket Man?

Both very talented. Elton John’s career has had greater longevity, but Billy Joel was his own songwriter. +1 for Billy Joel.

I wonder what Elton John would have become without Bernie Taupin.

The British Klaus Nomi?

Elton John, absolutely no contest.


Finally a, “compare the two artists” poll that makes you think. This one is a lot closer than the others were. In their prime, both had their unique talents. Billy Joel was a storyteller, and so was Elton John. But Elton John was much more opaque, and therefore interesting. You could read a lot into his songs. Billy Joel was more like, “Here’s a story about a couple of specific people, and what happened to them.” I’m trying to remember if Joel had anything like “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”, which I consider a rock classic. Joel had a lot of good songs with great hooks and lyrics, but he didn’t really push the envelope a whole lot.

Both are good pianists, both wrote some great music. This one could just come down to a matter of taste.

Yeah, I don’t know. This was actually the easiest of the polls for me so far. To expound on my reactions to their music: Billy Joel always sounded to me like he was trying too hard. His music has always struck me as calculated and somewhat cheesy. Very much like a left-brained approach to writing a hit pop song. (This may be an unfair description, but it’s the impression his music has always left me with. I’m not sold on the emotion of any of his songs.) Elton John’s music always seemed to me to be much more natural and sincere. Granted, they both wrote solid pop songs, but Billy Joel could never sell a song to me the way Elton could.

Not even close. Billy is a fun, competent tunesmith. Elton at his best wrote pop masterpieces, stuff that was Beatlesque. No contest, it’s Elton.

I am for Billy, just, although I do know what pulykamell means about the rather calculated nature of his songs. The fact is, neither of them really belong in the first rank. Elton, it is true, has had more staying power and perhaps more range, and is more melodically inventive, but frankly, I have always thought him to be hugely overrated. As for Bernie Taupin’s lyrics, I have always thought they are absolutely awful, full of forced metaphors, emotional dissonances, and clunky rhymes, and pretentiously pseudo-poetic. Billy’s lyrics may be calculated, but his calculations were mostly pretty good: Bernie’s were not just calculated, 90% of the time he got the calculations badly wrong! Without Elton’s considerable talents as a tunesmith coming to his rescue Bernie Taupin might have been recognized as the 20th century’s William McGonagall.

Also, although I would not care to have to defend the view that he is actually a better singer, I prefer the mellow sound of Billy’s voice over Elton’s nasal whine.

“Vienna” is my favorite song.

So… Joel.

Elton John, easily.

I agree that Taupin’s lyrics are often awful, but Joel tries too hard to be a Tin Pan Alley-style everyman songwriter, whereas John aimed for more classically-tinged songcraft that was compelling and ambitious, and because of that, he’s just more satisfying to listen to.

The Rocket Man!

However, I do like Billy Joel (especially since he seems to have always been a bugaboo for rock critics and elitists). But I lurve Elton John!

I think Elton John had the higher peak, but Billy Joel has a better overall catalog. Add in the song writing and I gave it to Billy. But I love them both. (The Stranger was the first vinyl album I ever bought with my own money and I remember my father hearing “Movin’ Out” and muttering to himself, " 'ack 'ack 'ack ''ack… what is that crap?" :slight_smile: )

Although it was the apparent motivation behind a porn name.

I like them both, but Elton wins due to longevity.

Like them both a lot (I saw them perform together – great show). I give Joel the edge, since he is one of rock’s greatest lyricists (Elton doesn’t write lyrics; his best lyrics were by Bernie Taupin).

If I had to pick on album from all their output, I’d definitely go with 11/17/70, though.

The immense popularity of Billy Joel will forever remain a mystery to me.

I like exactly three of his songs…everything else he’s ever done evokes reactions that range from indifference to active dislike bordering on hatred.

I like a few of Elton John’s songs very much, and can at least tolerate most of the rest of them. I have great respect for him, but I’m not the manic fan so many seem to be.

So Elton wins this contest easily for me.

There it is. Thanks for uttering the word I didn’t want to say for fear of offending his fans.

Billy Joel. But you’ve pitted my two favorite artists against each other. It’s like asking which of my sons I want to live! Billy Joel’s songs have much better lyrics and the flares he does with the piano push him over the top. You can practically divide his songs into movements. Elton’s voice isn’t as good, and is sometimes downright annoying, while he doesn’t do nearly as much with his instrument. The piano tends to be “flatter”.

Don’t make me choose!

Good observation, but I’d leave out the “too hard,” and maybe the “more.”

I don’t know whether to deduct points from Elton for the ridiculousness of Taupin’s lyrics, or to give him points for actually being able to sing them and make them more-or-less work.

I personally voted for Billy Joel, just out of personal preference and because he’s better at, y’know, rocking. But it’s a fair matchup, and I can understand where the Elton supporters are coming from.

(Here’s the Billy Joel vs. Elton John thread we did four years ago, which is worth reading.)

I grew up listening to Billy Joel, and when he and Elton performed together I was there mostly to see Billy. That lasted about three songs into Elton John’s set. He was fantastic live and I’m really glad I saw him.

Also great to see them perform each others’ songs, and duet on others. Elton doing “New York State of Mind” was wonderful, as was Billy doing “Goodbye Yellowbrick Road”.

Love Billy Joel.

I find Elton John boring.