By Mike Collett-White
LONDON (Reuters) - Scottish singer Emeli Sande joined folk act Mumford and Sons and indie rockers Alt-J with three BRIT Award nominations apiece on Thursday, but the biggest surprise was a posthumous nod for Amy Winehouse 18 months after she died.
Winehouse was included in the "British female solo" category, in which she was up against Sande, Jessie Ware, Paloma Faith and Bat for Lashes.
She was shortlisted for "Lioness: Hidden Treasures", an album of unreleased songs and demos dating back to 2002 which hit stores in December, 2011 and topped the British charts.
The "Back to Black" singer's father Mitch Winehouse said he was "delighted" with what he called the first ever posthumous BRIT nomination, adding in a statement:
"It proves that her music still has an enormous effect on the public now and for the generations to come."
The other surprise package in a list some critics said largely upheld the BRITs' reputation for rewarding commercial success over musical originality, veteran rockers the Rolling Stones were nominated for British live act.
The ageing quartet returned to the stage for a short, sellout tour at the end of 2012 in London and the United States to mark 50 years in business.
Despite criticism of high ticket prices, the band won critics and audiences over with hit-laden performances that belied their age.
"We all had such a blast, everyone was at the top of their game & the hometown audiences at The O2 were just fantastic..." lead singer Mick Jagger wrote on Twitter. "It's great to be nominated ... we will see you soon."
The last time the group was nominated was in 1996 and it is the only act to be nominated in both this year's awards and at the first BRIT Awards in 1977.
Sande took part in the opening and closing ceremonies at the London Olympics, helping to boost sales of her debut album "Our Version of Events" which sold an estimated 1.4 million copies in Britain last year.
She was nominated for best British female, best British single for "Next to Me" and the coveted Mastercard British album of the year prize. Sande also features on another contender for the single prize, Labrinth's "Beneath Your Beautiful".
Among the best album contenders are the other acts who each picked up three nominations - Mumford and Sons, who have enjoyed success both in Britain and the United States, and Alt-J, the former for "Babel" and latter for "An Awesome Wave."
Alt-J walked away with the prestigious Mercury Prize for the same record in November.
Rounding out the album category are rapper Plan B for "Ill Manors" and Paloma Faith for "Fall to Grace".
Boyband sensation One Direction received a nomination for best British group, and are up against Alt-J, Mumford and Sons, Muse and The xx.
A new award will be introduced at the ceremony on February 20 at London's O2 Arena.
The BRITs Global Success Award will go to the British act with the highest international sales during the 2012 calendar year excluding the domestic market.
Confirmed to perform on the night were Muse, Robbie Williams, Sande, Mumford and Sons, Ben Howard and One Direction.
This year's statuettes were designed by artist Damien Hirst and feature his trademark spots on a white background.
(Reporting by Mike Collett-White; Editing by Jason Webb)