The biggest night in music is fast approaching: it is that time of year when the nominations for the Grammys are announced. The artists who are set to compete against each other will be revealed on Monday 7 December 2015 and as anticipation grows, there are several questions over who is eligible for nominations and what the categories actually mean.

The window for artists to be able to receive a nod ran from 1 October 2014 until 30 September 2015, meaning some big names will have to wait until 2017 to be recognised. Most notably, it is unlikely Adele will steal the spotlight at the upcoming ceremony as her new album 25 was released on 20 November. Additionally, the likes of Janet Jackson, rapper The Game, Carrie Underwood and Coldplay may also have to wait as their albums were released in the fourth quarter.

Adele 25 album
Adele is unlikely to receive any Grammy nominations as her album 25 was released after the eligibility date had passed XL/Columbia

So which categories will be included? All eyes will be on the big four categories: album of the year, record of the year, song of the year and best new artist. It will be stiff competition with early predictions suggesting Taylor Swift will dominate all but the best new artist section thanks to the release of her fifth studio album 1989 and singles including Shake It Off, Blank Space and Bad Blood. The former country star was notoriously absent from the Grammys 2015 nominations as the LP was released on 27 October 2014.

Other top contenders for the main categories include The Weeknd's second album Beauty Behind The Madness and Kendrick Lamar's second LP To Pimp A Butterfly, while Sam Hunt, Leon Bridges and Fetty Wap are also expected to be up for best new artist. Among the singles hotly tipped to receive a nomination are Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars' Uptown Funk, Ed Sheeran's Thinking Out Loud and Swift's Blank Space.

The Weeknd
The Weeknd is hotly tipped to receive an album of the year nomination for his second LP Beauty Behind The Madness REUTERS/Kevork Djansezian

Which raises the oft-asked and head-scratching question: What is the difference between record of the year and song of the year? Record of the year incorporates the artist's overall performance and delivery of the track including involvement from the producers and engineers. However, the song of the year simply focuses on the lyrics and songwriting.

For the first time in a few years, Beyonce will be noticeably absent from the nominations list as her last album, the self-titled surprise record, was released in December 2013 and she has not released any singles except for 7/11, which dropped in November 2014. Still, the singer can rest assured that she is currently the most nominated female artist in Grammy history.

The Grammys 2016 are expected to take place in February in Los Angeles.