"River Cross" debuted on February 2, 2020 in a mawkish one-minute Super Bowl commercial for Verizon
that used images of first responders to promote its 5G network. The song is the last track on Pearl Jam's album Gigaton
, released March 27.
To this point, Pearl Jam had emulated Neil Young in refusing to let their songs be used in commercials. The band has a longstanding relationship with Verizon though, and the commercial takes that relationship to a new level.
In 2008, Pearl Jam promoted Verizon's V Cast music service by making songs played at each tour stop available for download on the platform (these songs were also packaged into ringtones). In 2009, Verizon sponsored Pearl Jam's tour and did a "Ten Weeks Of 'Ten'" promotion, giving away mobile downloads of songs from the group's debut album to build anticipation for its reissue. Later in the year, Verizon did something similar to promote Pearl Jam's Backspacer
album, offering ringtones of the tracks before they were released.
This cozy relationship with Verizon could be seen as crass commercialism or savvy marketing, depending on your side of the fence. By teaming with a wireless company, Pearl Jam is able to keep up with trends in technology and reach more fans. At least they ain't singing for Pepsi.
The ad is narrated by Harrison Ford; it's the first time he's voiced commercial.