By James Dinh
Exactly one month before his new album, Looking 4 Myself, hits shelves, the wheels of Usher's promotional wagon gained momentum when the entertainer provided America with a set of contrasting performances and chuckles during this weekend's "Saturday Night Live" episode, which was hosted by "SNL" alum Will Ferrell.
Rocking simple black jeans, a jacket and tee, and a faux hawk, Ursh looked vibrant and energetic as he performed his brand-new single "Scream." Unlike previous expertly choreographed numbers for his dance tunes, the sunglass-donning singer showed off minimal, but nonetheless slick, moves, while his band and two backup singers filled his Studio 8 back stage.
We at it again, 'SNL,' and this time we going to make you scream," he told the crowd at the start of the energetic cut.
His second performance was for the Diplo-produced cut "Climax," during which the singer showed off his sensual and smooth side. Clearing the area of his accompanying singers, Usher made his smooth falsetto the forefront of the number. It was a simple, authentic rendition of the hit song that was essential proof of his multi-faceted vocal talents.
In addition to his set of performances, the ATL singer appeared alongside Ferrell in the "2012 Funkytown Debate" skit, in which he played a character named Galactic Fantastic. Dressed in some sparkling duds and an oversized afro, the R&B entertainer played a wacky sidekick who brought in his singing voice to support Farrell's side of the grooving song debate.
Usher got even more airtime when he was joined by Justin Bieber, Justin Timberlake, Michael Bolton, Will Ferrell and Natalie Portman, who all made cameos in the episode's special 100th Digital Short. Paying tribute to some of the most popular Shorts like "Di-- in a Box" and "Shy Ronnie," Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone and the Biebs most fittingly put on a big-time celebration with accompanying jingle. It was an all-star affair and brought back some major giggles — especially when JT and Portman reprised their original Short roles.
To add to the night's surprises, Liam Neeson popped up during a "Weekend Update" segment for the Nicolas Cage parody "Get in the Cage." Neeson's upcoming summer flick "Battleship" was the main topic of conversation, with Samberg, as Cage, asking his usual "How am I not in that movie?!" Samberg went on to babble jealous nonsense about Neeson's other flicks in his spot-on Cage impersonation.
Like last week's musical guest Rihanna, Mr. Raymond's gig on the late-night sketch show marks his third appearance. And it's one of the many stops that the singer will make to promote his upcoming project. He's set to kick off the "Today" show's summer concert series on Friday, perform at the Billboard Music Awards on May 20 and head overseas for Capital FM's Summertime Ball 2012 in London in early June.
Mick Jagger will perform double duty as host and musical guest on next week's "Saturday Night Live" season finale.