Elton John Calls Lil Nas X a 'Hero of Mine' After 2021 iHeartRadio Music Awards Honor (Exclusive)

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Elton John has a lot of love for the new generation of musical groundbreakers. The legendary singer was honored with the Icon Award at the 2021 iHeartRadio Music Awards on Thursday, and he shared a memorable moment with Lil Nas X, who presented him with the award.

Speaking with ET's Lauren Zima after the ceremony, John opened up about the thrill of getting to reunite with so many artists he respects at the ceremony -- especially after the last, challenging year -- and had high praise for Lil Nas X, whom he said "is a hero of mine."

"It's wonderful to be able to be amongst those artists and to say hello [sometimes] for the first time, because of course, I listen to these artists all the time," John shared. "I've been a fan of music all my life. And I still buy my records and my CDs and my vinyl. I don't stream and I don't download, I'm still a bit of a luddite like that, but it gives me the incentive to keep up, to look for new artists to provide me with energy."

Lil Nas X -- along with Chris Martin -- presented the tribute to John's legacy, and shared some kind words on stage about the all-time great performer.

"Elton John has been called many things. Reggie, Rocket Man, Pinball Wizard, Sir Elton. To me, he's a trailblazer who paved the way for others to live their lives freely and unapologetically," Lil Nas X said. "He's inspired me and so many other people by being himself, and being larger than life, flashy and fearless, especially when he's in front of that piano."

"Elton on behalf of all the people around the world who you have inspired, thank you," he added. "Even if you didn't mean to be a role model, you are."

John reciprocated the appreciation during his speech, giving the "MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)" artist a special message of admiration.

"I just want to say a special thanks to Lil Nas X, because he is a wonderful artist and has balls of steel!" John said to the cheering crowd.

Before accepting the trophy, the show also presented a special musical tribute featuring H.E.R., Demi Lovato and Brandi Carlile

The tribute began with H.E.R. seated at a red grand piano crooning "Bennie and the Jets," before breaking out one of her legendary electric guitar solos. Carlile took the stage to belt out a powerful rendition of "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me," and a retro-glammed out Lovato closed things out with a fun cover of "I'm Still Standing."

"They all sang three songs that are so hard to sing," said John, explaining that each tune represented a different period of musical growth over the course of his career. "They did a brilliant job, so I'm very touched. When someone else sings your song, it's always a compliment."

Check out the video below to hear more on this year's iHeartRadio Music Awards!

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