Hurricane Saturant had struck land: she was playing all of the nightly talk shows to promote her forthcoming LP “Buffer,” as well as her summer tour with Lorde. Posters for the album were plastered up around the city (and LA, I was told), showing Joanie as a dead ringer for Sharon Stone in “Basic Instinct.” And there she was on the cover of Billboard, head to toe in leopard print, flanked by children dancing beneath the rain of a fire hydrant as the sun beat down: “SATURANT: Summer’s hottest act is also its coolest.” I hadn’t spoken with Joanie in a month, and I now presumed I may never speak to that person again, even once things cooled between us. After this much attention and name recognition for Saturant, I think “Joanie” as I knew her was gone for good.

“This has been one helluva year,” Joanie told Billboard. “Last summer I was still performing under my given name, really lacking confidence and thinking about quitting. Then Saturant came to me…. Mainstream was never my aim, but to think that I could reach people back home in Kansas, wow…. I’ve been really critical of my state and how backwards I think a lot of it is. It is important to me to disconnect myself from that place’s core ideology as an adult. This has made me very dissociative, to feel so opposite of everyone and everything I grew up with. That’s a big reason I was reborn as Saturant. I had to absorb all of this new culture and become a totally new person, which took years of just… being alive, you know? I didn’t realize it was happening, but I basically broke myself down in order to build myself back up.” She sounded a bit uncoached to me, but overall, it rang true. That was my Joanie.

Saturant’s new Diplo-produced single “Stop at Nothing” premiered to equal buzz. It featured a verse and hook from Lorde, almost cementing its odds at topping any and every chart. The video had more views in its first three hours than all of her other videos had ever accumulated. “Can we already call it the song of the summer?” asked Entertainment Weekly. In the video, Saturant leads a viking ship out to stormy seas, and what follows is a Tarantino-esque affair once the ship is raided by pillagers. Captain Saturant and first mate Lorde lead the defense, slaughtering anyone who nears. And playing over it all, her words: “I would steal for this // Go to hell for this // I would give my firstborn // I would kill for this // I would sell out my friends // I would sell my own soul // I would stop at nothing // I have made this my goal // Do not stand in my way // Do not slow me down // I will stop // I will stop // I will stop // At nothing.

My work phone and email were erupting with calls for Saturant, and it now made sense to forward them along to Red Light, seeing as it would spare us the blocked lines and inbox crowding. I was in this better place with everything too; sure, part of me wondered what kind of money I had lost out on by not being part of Saturant’s explosion, but there she was, getting everything she could have dreamed up, if not more. I never helped her for the sake of getting rich, though she was about to become very very rich. What worried me most about our cutting ties was all the new people she would meet in the industry along the way: I think I would have been good at filtering those who were using her for the money, away from those people who genuinely wanted to see her succeed for her own good.

Saturant gave a pre-tour concert on a hot spring night. It was on the West Side Highway, set back on a pier, and the weather was pristine. For the first time in my life, I paid money to see Joanie perform, and I felt safe tucked in the crowd of two thousand people. Bart and Peter tagged along, and I could have sworn that Joanie noticed us among the masses due to Peter’s towering above everyone else. All around me, people were holding up their phones, FaceTiming their friends in other cities or snapping Instagrams so that they could boast of seeing music’s newest sensation. “Thank you, New York. You are my home,” Saturant told her adoring fans after the encore. Then I swore she looked me straight in the eyes, never mind my being 30 yards away: “I’ll be back soon. Thank you. Thank you. Don’t miss me ok? I love you!”

Peter, Bart, and I shuffled back toward Chelsea after the concert. Everyone around us was buzzing about how incredible it was, and I heard a couple people desperately trying to pretend they knew Joanie or had always been fans: “My cousin used to sing in a choir with her. He says she is so nice, like, everything you would expect her to be.” “Whoa, that’s awesome. Has he talked to her recently?” “No, but she favorited one of his tweets a couple weeks ago where he said he liked her EP.” “That’s so cool. She’s so cool.” The three of us chuckled as we angled toward Bart’s apartment. Ten minutes later, Peter was the first to actually say anything: “She did really well, didn’t she?” Bart and I both nodded and hummed our approval, then we walked in continued silence the rest of the way.

“How was it?!” Talia texted. “Her best yet?” I phoned her back instead of texting: “Hey Talia. Yeah. Her best yet, no question. Better than her South-By performance, even.” “That’s so good to hear!” she replied. “And how are you feeling?” I had thought plenty on this already: “I’m fine. Proud of her, I suppose. Just weird to be a fan and not helping her. I’m sure Dixon’s doing a good job, though. I mean, clearly he is.” We caught up for another 15 minutes as I readied for bed—Talia was excited to see Saturant and Lorde perform in Kansas City later that summer—and I ended the call by saying this: “I just hope she’s still Joanie in there. That she would turn her head at the sound of her real name, and treat us the same in five, ten, or twenty years.” “Me too, Eric. Me too,” Talia added. When we hung up, I noticed I had missed a text while on the call. It was my first in a long time from one Joanie George: “Thanks for being there tonight, Eric. Really.”

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