I should hate John Mayer. The screaming teens, the tunes about naive love and longing — and that damn puppy-dog cuteness.

So why can’t I take the CD out of my stereo?

At first listen, I had the same complaints as most cynics: his voice sounds just like Dave Matthews’. He writes lyrics as if he were an eighth grade girl composing her secret stash of poetry. But the more I listened, the more I got sucked in. The annoyances became forgivable, and the songs were — well — good.

So that’s it. I am a John Mayer fan. I didn’t feel bad when he beat out James Taylor for a Grammy last weekend. I will throw him on the stereo Saturday for an afternoon of reading. And I refuse to feel dirty about it. For one, the man is a hell of a guitarist. Trained at the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston, Mayer has a full understanding of the blues (as evidenced both by his live shows and a recent New York appearance with Derek Trucks and Robert Randolph).

In addition, he can write a great pop song. Hell, even Norah Jones doesn’t write her own stuff. Mayer’s major label debut “Room for Squares” is full of songs that fit the same coffeehouse-acoustic-singer/songwriter mold. But each is catchy in a way that you may not pick up on first listen — I sure didn’t.

So consider taking the plunge on Mayer’s most recent release “Any Given Thursday,” a two-disc live show recorded on his Fall 2002 tour. The band is tight, the voice strong, and the girls (ugh) shrieking. But you’ll definitely step away with a better appreciation for the potential Mayer has.

Remember, the smack people talk about John Mayer today sounds a lot like what people said about artists like Taylor and Paul Simon in the ’70s. Give the guy a shot to prove himself.

–Andrew Roach