The 16-year-old New Zealander's indie hit just made her the first female artist to top the Alternative Songs chart since 1996; she tells us how she got there

In a summer dominated by songs about blurred lines and getting lucky, one oddball little jam about ”crav[ing] a different kind of buzz” slyly crept in and became one of 2013’s most unexpected hits. ”Everybody’s like Cristal, Maybach, diamonds on your timepiece/Jet planes, islands, tigers on a gold leash/We don’t care, we aren’t caught up in your love affair,” Lorde, a.k.a. Ella Yelich-O’Connor, coos on ”Royals.” But the New Zealand teen never imagined that her addictive track, with its airy harmonies and crisp finger snaps, would one day be played alongside the gleefully hedonistic songs that inspired it — or hit No. 1 on the Alternative Songs chart (the last female to do so was Tracy Bonham in 1996 with ”Mother Mother”). ”I wrote ‘Royals’ maybe 15 months ago over my school holidays, and I had been listening to a lot of hip-hop and Lana Del Rey,” Lorde says. ”What struck me was just, like, the ridiculous, unattainable wealth, all this opulence. I was poking a bit of fun, really, teasing all the people who write music that just focuses on having the biggest car. Like, I can’t even drive, so why is it relevant?” Since she just booked her first full run of U.S. shows (starting Sept. 24 in L.A.), the only ride the rising star needs now is a tour bus — tiger permits not included.