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Electronica includes a wide range of contemporary electronic music designed for a wide range of uses, including foreground listening, some forms of dancing, and background music for other activities; but unlike electronic dance music, it is not specifically made for dancing. The term was first used in the United States in the early 1990s with regards to post-rave global-influenced electronic dance music. Genres such as techno, drum and bass, downtempo, and ambient are among those encompassed by the umbrella term, entering the American mainstream from "alternative" or "underground" venues during the late 1990s. Prior to the adoption of electronica for this purpose, terms such as electronic listening music, trance and intelligent dance music (IDM) were used.

The All Music Guide categorizes electronica as a top-level genre on their main page, where they state that electronica includes "dozens of stylistic fusions" ranging from danceable grooves to music for headphones and chillout areas.

After beginning as an underground genre in the early 1990s, electronica has grown to influence even mainstream crossover recordings. Elements of electronica are used today by many popular artists in mainstream music.

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