usher2_web.jpgNEW ORLEANS (AP) — Usher returns to New Orleans this summer as a headliner for the 2011 Essence Music Festival.

Michelle Ebanks, president of Essence Communications Inc., said Wednesday that Usher has a longstanding relationship with the company and this year marks the first time the Grammy Award-winning singer will headline the festival, which is held July 1-3 inside the Louisiana Superdome.

In 2003, Usher performed as part of a tribute to Luther Vandross, who had just fallen ill, and in 1998 he was one of the festival’s opening night performers. This year, he is billed as an opening night headliner and will perform along with a stellar group of artists including Jennifer Hudson, Charlie Wilson, Fantasia and Boyz II Men.

It’s a return engagement for the multi-platinum-selling singer. Last December, he performed with Trey Songz and Miguel in New Orleans at the New Orleans Arena.

Also added to the 2011 Essence lineup are Morris Day & The Time, Loose Ends, Noel Gourdin and Timothy Bloom, Ebanks announced.

Others scheduled to perform include Kanye West, Jill Scott, Chaka Khan, Mary J. Blige, New Edition, Kem, Stephanie Mills, Naughty by Nature, Doug E. Fresh, MC Lyte, Songz and Miguel.