By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - English singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran led the field with four BRIT nominations on Thursday, one ahead of global chart queen Adele who is down to perform at the awards after months out for throat surgery.

The annual honors, Britain's top pop awards, will be handed out at London's O2 Arena on February 21, and Adele's live UK comeback is likely to be among the highlights.

The 23-year-old had the world's top-selling album last year with "21", which sold 5.8 million copies in the United States alone, and picked up six Grammy nominations in a triumphant year.

Adding to her list of accolades on Thursday, the "Rolling in the Deep" singer earned three BRIT nods and was bested only by the less familiar face of Sheeran.

The 20-year-old, whose debut album "+" topped the UK charts and has sold nearly a million copies in Britain so far, scooped four nominations, including for the coveted British Album of the Year prize sponsored by Mastercard.

He is also in the running for British male solo artist, British breakthrough act and British single for "The A Team".

Sheeran performed "Give Me Love" at a nominations launch in central London and confirmed he would sing it again at the main awards show.

On the red carpet before the event, he explained why he had featured Harry Potter actor Rupert Grint, who plays Ron Weasley, in his video for the track "Lego House".

"I went to school and was a ginger (haired) kid, so you're obviously going to get the Ron Weasley comments at some point so I just thought I would take the piss out of myself and get him to play me," Sheeran told Reuters.

Just behind him with three nominations apiece were Adele and Jessie J, the 2011 winner of the Critics' Choice award for rising music stars.

Adele is up against Sheeran in the British Album category for "21" and was also nominated for British female solo artist and British single ("Someone Like You").

Jessie J competes in the female solo artist, British breakthrough and single categories, the latter for "Price Tag".

Veteran Kate Bush is also vying for best female act, sealing a remarkable comeback.

Florence & the Machine and Coldplay are each nominated twice, as are Emeli Sande, this year's Critics' Choice winner, and Americans Bon Iver and Aloe Blacc.

Playing at the awards ceremony next month are expected to be Adele, Bruno Mars, Coldplay, Sheeran, Florence & the Machine, Rihanna, Noel Gallagher and Blur, recipients of the Outstanding Contribution to Music Award, according to a list released by organizers.

Following is a full list of the 2012 nominees:

BRITISH MALE SOLO ARTIST:

Ed Sheeran; James Blake; James Morrison; Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds; Professor Green

BRITISH FEMALE SOLO ARTIST:

Adele; Florence & The Machine; Jessie J; Kate Bush; Laura Marling

BRITISH BREAKTHROUGH ACT:

Anna Calvi; Ed Sheeran; Emeli Sande; Jessie J; The Vaccines

BRITISH GROUP:

Arctic Monkeys; Chase & Status; Coldplay; Elbow; Kasabian

BRITISH SINGLE:

Adele/Someone Like You; Ed Sheeran/The A Team; Example/ Changed The Way You Kiss Me; Jessie J Ft B.o.B./Price Tag; JLS Ft Dev/She Makes Me Wanna; Military Wives and Gareth Malone/Wherever You Are; Olly Murs Ft Rizzle Kicks/Heart Skips A Beat; One Direction/What Makes You Beautiful; Pixie Lott/All About Tonight; The Wanted/Glad You Came

MASTERCARD BRITISH ALBUM OF THE YEAR:

Adele/21; Coldplay/Mylo Xyloto; Ed Sheeran/+; Florence & The Machine/Ceremonials; PJ Harvey/Let England Shake

INTERNATIONAL MALE SOLO ARTIST:

Aloe Blacc; Bon Iver; Bruno Mars; David Guetta; Ryan Adams

INTERNATIONAL FEMALE SOLO ARTIST:

Beyonce; Bjork; Feist; Lady Gaga; Rihanna

INTERNATIONAL GROUP:

Fleet Foxes; Foo Fighters; Jay Z and Kanye West; Lady Antebellum; Maroon 5

INTERNATIONAL BREAKTHROUGH ACT:

Aloe Blacc; Bon Iver; Foster The People; Lana Del Rey; Nicki Minaj

OUTSTANDING CONTRIBUTION TO MUSIC AWARD:

Blur

CRITICS' CHOICE:

Emeli Sande

BRITISH PRODUCER:

Paul Epworth; Flood; Ethan Johns

(Reporting by Mike Collett-White, editing by Paul Casciato and Jill Serjeant)