Another ambition is to free this particular singer-songwriter from the expectation that every album will offer another set of autobiographical revelations. Most of the songs are less introspective than her earlier work. Spy is an album of disguises rather than one of intimacy, and this may be why the cover photograph and design seem so out of character and even impersonal. The portrait used in the album's centrefold (below) continues the spy-with-the-eye theme but, with Carly flashing her trademark megawatt smile, it is actually a much more appealing and flattering image than the one on the cover. Was it considered too familiar and conventional to front such an ambitious album?
Oddly, the centrepiece of the album is its most uncharacteristic song, the ballad "We're So Close". It is telling that this is produced more sparingly than the other songs, and that Carly's own piano playing - a staple of her previous albums - is once again at the fore. The chords are mournfully downcast and repetitive, articulating the longing of a woman caught in the doldrums of a marriage, with a relationship that has long since cooled and a husband who is comfortable with the distance and neglect she finds so chilling. The song's final lines - We're so close we can dispense with love/We don't need love at all - are intertwined with Sanborn's quietly tearful sax riff, and this moment of stark honesty makes more impact than anything else on the album. If the song represents the album's most revealing moment, it is startlingly sombre, and here a reason for the many disguises employed on Spy can be found. Her flash and brash new musical persona was a distraction from this unhappiness, not to mention a means of maintaining a viable musical persona at a time when she was expected to create at least a few radio-ready tunes on each album. Certainly, an unused portrait from the Spy sessions, seen on the left, conveys a much different feeling than the photos actually used. Its penetrating gaze would have suited an album named after "We're So Close", but the livelier tones of Spy required a portrait with more charisma and spark, and an eye that does not convey such thoughtful sadness.